Thoughts on Stephen King and Metallica and a Review of "11/22/63" — 5 out of 5 stars
Tue, 03 Jan 2012 13:31:07
Metallica and Stephen King are most definitely kindred spirits.
In their respective fields, they're unparalleled in terms of both creativity and consistency. Not only have they continually evolved, they've also challenged themselves and the status quo with each successive release—ultimately always shifting the cultural tide to their whim. Late 20th and 21st century heavy metal and rock 'n' roll owe an unfathomable debt to California's four horsemen, and the scribe from Maine remains the undisputed "king" of modern literature.
King's latest novel, 11/22/63, is a masterpiece much in the same way that Metallica's last proper studio album, 2008's Death Magnetic, is.
11/22/63 retains the hallmarks of classic King. It's a psychotically unnerving and beautifully obsessive rapid fire page-turner. He also dissects family dysfunction masterfully under the backdrop of one of America's "golden" ages. Beneath the veneer, the scars pulse with dark purity in King's words. At the same time, the author tackles time travel and what would happen if President Kennedy's assassination could be prevented. There's striking detail included not only about the John F. Kennedy murder but the setting of the 1950s and 1960s. You can practically smell and taste Lisbon Falls in the '50s with King driving. The novel stands out as the ultimate time travel thriller.
Given King's careful attention to detail, the reader truly does travel back in time with main character Jake Epping. Epping is a high school teacher whose friend, diner owner Al Templeton, informs of a fissure that leads back to Lisbon Falls, ME in 1958. Templeton is dying, and his final wish is for Epping to go back and prevent John F. Kennedy's assassination. Along the way, Epping settles a few scores of his own—most harrowingly and hypnotically preventing the murderous Frank Dunning from slaughtering his whole family. These moments enrich the story and the world that Epping becomes a part of, adopting an alternate name "George Amberson" for the ride. Along the way, he learns what he's capable of and even gives love a second chance. Still, as he spies on the abusive, idealistic Lee Harvey Oswald, the main goal looms. "The past is obdurate" though, and Epping's missing is never easy. That's what makes 11/22/63 a modern classic.
King masterfully architects a robust and intricate story fueled by his quick seamless prose. This is bound to be one hell of a movie…someone had better call James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo for the soundtrack.
Similarly, Death Magnetic belongs in the heavy metal pantheon alongside Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, Kill 'Em All, The Black Album, etc. Four years since its release, the album sees Metallica perfect their thrash assault into an expansive all-encompassing death march, augmented by the release of 2011's digital EP, Beyond Magnetic. Both Death Magnetic and Beyond Magnetic bludgeon with the most violent of the band's early fare, yet they're emblematic of an act unafraid of change and willing to push the envelope still.
Stephen King and Metallica need to get working on something together, stat…In the meantime, read 11/22/63 while cranking Beyond Magnetic and Death Magnetic…
—Rick Florino ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief, Dolor author
What's your favorite Metallica album and Stephen King book?