Some books just shouldn’t be read in succession. It diminishes the effect of one of the books. I found this out the hard way the week before last on a mini-vacation. You may have noticed I didn’t have a Monday Movie/Book review or a Wednesday Writing Journal last week. This was because I was on a mini-vacation/house sitting for my parents with my husband and was unable to write said blog posts. I was able to fit in some nice reading time while my husband grinded his way through Dark Souls. (Great game, btw)
I first read 11/22/63, Stephen King’s latest novel and one which has been at the top of my list for almost 6 months. I’m just gonna tell you straight up, I was a little disappointed. First off, his liberal mindset comes out loud and proud in this book. I have no problem with that even though I do disagree with him on a lot of things as a conservative person. Generally, I can overlook these views and enjoy a rip-roaring story. This time it came on fast and thick. The now overly done idea of the 50s being darker than we like to admit and the 60s being not as bad as we thought filled the story. Generally, if anyone could redo this story idea in a new and fresh way, King would be my pick. He failed. He also went on to make Texas look like the most bigoted place in the world you could possibly live. Now….I’m from Fort Worth. I don’t like Dallas. No one in Fort Worth does. Do you like your big sister? No. BUT, when someone picks on Dallas, I’m coming to the defense. Same as you would for your big sister. You may not like her, but you’re never going to let someone else pick on her. That’s how I felt reading this book. Again, I believe in Free Speech. I have no problem with King having and holding to these ideas, but a writer should always be aware that they will ostracize one group of readers or another if they start spouting off too many opinions instead of telling the story. A story should engage the reader not preach at them.
On top of all that stuff, there was a huge error at the beginning of the book where a character literally gets her head caved in with a sledge-hammer, and then is talking two or three paragraphs later. I reread the scene about five times. Nope. Her head really did get smashed. Yes. She is up and talking later. There is no way she survived what happened to her the way King vividly describes it. Someone missed it. That really threw me for a loop.
The other things which made this book a hard read was the idea of time echoes – which was pretty cool – but that meant you had to keep up with a lot of characters so you could see the echoes. Several times the main character, Jake, would notice an echo and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out who he was talking about. There are a lot of characters to keep up with in this book. I think for me, the book didn’t get interesting until the last few chapters when Jake finds out what happens when you mess with time in a big way. But, by then I was kinda bored and ready to go on with my life. I really had a hard time getting into this book. Compared to Under the Dome, which had me glued to my Kindle for a week, this book failed to live up to the normal King horror standard.
As soon as I finished 11/22/63, I picked up Black Hawk Down. This amazing story about an epic battle fought by our boys made King’s book even less enjoyable. It didn’t even have a good aftertaste. Now, I probably shouldn’t follow-up fiction that is supposed to be gripping with nonfictional books on battles. It is very hard to view the other book as valuable when you’re reading a book about boys fighting for their lives. So….lesson learned: be careful what you read and what order you read them in.
Black Hawk Down completely overshadowed 11/22/63.
If you’re interested in Military History, War, our Soldiers, or just want to get a feel for what our boys do, read Black Hawk Down! I’m not real good at reading nonfiction, but this story was very well written. Mark Bowden did his research. He talked with the soldiers, hunted down files, talked to family members, and watched videos. He went to Mogadishu and talked with the militia fighters who also participated in the battle. When and where he could, he got three or four witnesses to collaborate stories. What I think I learned the most from this story is that even though we lost about 19 men that day and had many men wounded in the battle, they completed their objective. It is very easy to sit in my pretty little house, look at the loss life, and think of this engagement as a failure. But to the men who fought and bled down on those dirty desert streets, they won. They did what they were supposed to do and they brought their dead and wounded home. Our boys rock! The other thing it did was give me a real respect for our Delta forces and our Rangers. Our military is amazing. They value life, they try to fight as clean a war as they can, and they care deeply about one another. They’re smart, courageous in the middle of great fear, and willing to sacrifice everything.
Reading 11/22/63 paled in comparison with real men bleeding and dying. It pales in comparison to two Delta boys who willingly and knowingly gave their lives for the pilot of a downed chopper. It pales in comparison to watching men fight and fight and fail and fight some more. How many of us would willingly go back into that hell after we just escaped it? The Rangers couldn’t get back in fast enough. Even the cooks joined the fight to get their brothers out.
So….It may not be that 11/22/63 was really that bad, it may be that I just followed it up with something so much more amazing, I didn’t leave it a leg to stand on. I’m not sure which, you read them and tell me what you think!