Right now, there's nothing I'd really rather be doing than reading my current book. (Okay, maybe something involving a hot fudge sundae and a white sandy beach while getting a backrub might come out on top.) But when you've gotten your hooks into a book that just makes you keep turning the pages until you finally say: Better stop, I'm going to devour this too fast and then I'll be sad — that's the precise, perfect synergy between writer and reader.
The book? Stephen King's "11/22/63."
Now, I have to admit, it's been a while since a King book grabbed me like this. "Under the Dome" came close, and then strangled itself in the fourth act. When he's setting up character and relationships and spinning them out with dialogue and half-made-up phrases and words, there's nobody better. (I always say "It" was less a novel than character study.) His people feel real and that makes their supernatural situations real and relatable. But he's run lukewarm for me — even if I always read his new works — a lot in the past decade or so; "Duma Key" was deadly, and "Nightmares and Dreamscapes" was incredibly disappointing, because his earlier shorts (in "Skeleton Key" and "Night Shift") are so much rawer and Hitchcockian. So it's such a thrill to be back in a world I love visiting — his imagination — and feel like I can comfortably roam around again.
For those who haven't read it, I can't offer spoilers as I'm barely halfway through — but "11/22/63" is about a very real-feeling time portal that takes a person from the present day (in a diner's closet) to September 9, 1958. (I'm puzzling over any import to that date, which I'm sure has some relevance.) The guy who ends up going through has a mission: To stop the Kennedy assassination. Since we've seen permutations of this kind of thing forever — would you go back in time and kill Hitler? blah blah — it's fun watching him take us through all the considerations involved (butterfly effect, just when do you step in and intervene) and the very realistic twist on how the past doesn't really want to be tampered with, and will get in your way if you try. But it has a first-person narrator who's just fun to be with, who does many of the same things we think we would do, and because it's written by Stephen King he has the room to roam around and tell us all of these things — he doesn't have to be done in 300 or even 400 pages.
King writes monster big books, and when they're good — as this one is — you're thrilled that they're as long as they are. You want the detail, you want the events that build and all seem to have relevance. When they're not so good — and sadly you don't know until toward the very end, when you're not coming to a conclusion that makes much emotional sense, which means "11/22/63" is still potentially a terrible read — it's an excessive waste of time. That said, when he's good, he's very very good, and when he's bad — well, there's still something worth reading there.
What are you reading, and how enthralled are you?