Can Stephen King handle time travel?
Image Credit: Joe Kohen/Getty ImagesIf you’re a true fan of Stephen King, by now you’ve probably read the synopsis of his upcoming book, 11/22/63. The plot is pretty out there: Jake Epping, a teacher, travels to 1958 via a portal in his friend’s diner, where he takes on a mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination. In the meantime, he meets a disturbed man named Lee Harvey Oswald, deals with culture shock of finding himself in a past decade (I can already picture a time travel cliche in the film version: Jake at a soda shop, where “One Fine Day” is playing in the background), and falls passionately in love with a comely librarian named Sadie Dunhill. The upcoming 1,000-page novel sounds like an intriguing departure for Uncle Stevie, but not all of his readers are convinced. Allison Flood of the Guardian counts herself among King’s fans but remains skeptical as to whether he can make time travel interesting.
I have to agree that narratively, time travel can be eye-crossingly confusing if you try too hard to make sense of it. Also, the mechanics of time travel are usually not that interesting to read about (I know a lot of you will disagree, but I thought the depiction of constant “Chrono-Displacement” in The Time Traveler’s Wife became so tedious that I couldn’t finish it). However, Flood writes that while she’s not sold on the premise of the upcoming novel, she believes if anyone call pull off time travel, it’s Uncle Stevie. King has proven time and again his versatility and big imagination. He’s written about everything from telekinetic misfits to rural noir to alien spacecrafts. While he may not have written about the JFK or time travel to the 60’s yet, he’s successfully written about a dimension-hopping killer clown, and that’s quite an achievement. (By the way, does anyone else have to drop everything and watch It whenever it’s on TV?)
Are you looking forward to 11/22/63, or do you think Stephen King’s time is better spent working on the next Dark Tower or The Shining sequel? What do you think of time travel as a device in fiction in general?