I finished reading Stephen King’s “11/22/63” last night. It’s already on a few best lists for 2011, and deservedly so.

11-22-63I’m a big fan of King’s early work, but I began to lose interest when he started recycling plots and using stock characters in seemingly every book. But this one brings me right back into the fold, and it’s probably one of the most emotionally affecting novels he’s written. I won’t tell you how wrapped up in the story and the people I got. There were a few spots where I had to stop and, uh, clean my reading glasses. And I must admit that this one’s responsible for me losing track of time when I should have been sleeping, looking at the clock and saying, “Holy crap, it’s 3 a.m. already?” It’s been a long time since a book kept me up because I literally could not put it down.

The nice surprise here is that it turns out King shines so brightly at something other than horror, in this case science fiction/alternate history. But an even bigger surprise is that “11/22/63” turns out to be a love story, and a damn effective one at that. Sadie, the love interest, is so real and literally dances off the page with such a lifelike grace that the reader has no choice but to fall in love with her as well. I’m hard pressed to think of any other character in King’s impressive oeuvre that seems as real.

This one goes on the shelf right next to “The Stand,” King’s best novel.