In the second part of my review of 11/22/63, I'd like to focus on the ways in which the novel crosses over with other stories in the King universe.
Obviously, 11/22/63 spends a fair amount of time playing in the same stomping-grounds as did another famous epic novel: Derry, Maine, in 1958, which was the setting for about half of It. That novel, which has major themes involving the intractable nature of time's passage, is my favorite by King; revisiting it might well have proven to be disastrous, and in the hands of a lesser writer probably would be. King, of course, often cross-pollinates his works (e.g., having Ralph Roberts from Insomnia pop up in Bag of Bones), and I cannot off the top of my head think of an instance in which he's done so to the detriment of his work.
Here, what happens to the story of It as a result of the events of 11/22/63 is that it concretizes the notion of time as an active force in our lives; this was a major element of It in the sense that the characters of that novel are keenly aware that their childhoods have ended, and that while they might hold on to some aspects of their past, they can never truly regain them. They are engaged in their own peculiar sort of time travel; it is figurative rather than literal, but they are both successful AND unsuccessful in their attempts, just as Jake is. Furthermore, the structure of It -- which bounces back and forth between past and present -- makes time an even more active element of the novel; for our purposes as readers, the past and present are both active, and toward the end of the novel the two begin to merge. It would have been troublesome for 11/22/63 to work against those themes, but it doesn't; it deepens them.
As such, the appearance of both Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier -- whom we meet maybe a month after the 1958 portion of events from It -- is an absolute delight. They sound just right: it seems as if they walked straight out of that novel and into this one. No mean feat on King's part, that; he's revisiting a 25-year-old novel, and doing so with complete success.
What he doesn't revisit is Pennwyise, at least not directly. At one point, Jake does visit the Kitchener Ironworks, and he passes by the same fallen industrial chimney in which Mike Hanlon hid from a monstrous bird in It. Here, Jake senses a malevolent presence of some sort, almost as if it is beckoning to him: it seems to whisper to him that "Time doesn't matter in here; in here, time just floats away." (Chapter 8) The use of the word "float," of course, is no coincidence: here, Jake is directly sensing the presence and influence of the alien entity known as Pennywise, who has been thoroughly wounded by the children, but by no means killed.
Later in the novel, when visiting Dealey Plaza for the first time, Jake gets a similar sense of wrongness from the Texas School Book Depository building, which also seems to speak to him, and also seems to exude wrongness. In fact, all of Dallas exudes that sense of wrongness, as did all of Derry.
In this idea, we begin to transition a bit to the concerns of King's interconnected stories: the idea that certain places simply exude evil. The Marsten House in 'Salem's Lot was such a place, as is the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, the Micmac burial ground in in Pet Sematary, the crash site in The Tommyknockers. etc. In 'Salem's Lot, the Marsten House is an evil place which calls to evil people, and that's how Barlow and Straker end up occupying it; here, the Depository is an evil place which has called to an evil person, Lee Harvey Oswald, and therefore positioned him to enact a watershed moment in history. King's argument, though, is that from the universe's point of view, that watershed moment was a necessary one: that without Kennedy falling beneath a sniper's bullet, the fabric of reality could not sustain itself.
Why is this the case? It's a fair question, and it's one which may well be asked by any number of readers who come to the novel relatively free of knowledge about King's larger universe. The answer they will likely come to is that the process of changing the past itself is what causes the damage to the fabric of reality. However, I don't think this is actually the case. It makes for an excellent diversionary answer, and it hadn't occurred to me that there might be a deeper answer until I was writing this essay. But I think there is a deeper answer.
It's all about the Rose...by which I mean the Tower.
There are no overt connection between 11/22/63 and The Dark Tower; I might as well admit that. However, there are points of possible overlap: the Yellow Card Man and the Green Card Men are somewhat similar to Low Men, and while they are definitely NOT the same thing, they do seem to serve similar functions and have similar capabilities. Additionally, it's hard to think of Jake placing bets which he knows the outcome of without also thinking of Ted Brautigan from Hearts In Atlantis and The Dark Tower. Add to that the fact that It has thematic ramifications within that larger King universe, including an appearance by one of the Guardians of the Beam, and you come up with a viewpoint from which 11/22/63 might not have any direct connections, but plenty of indirect ones. Therefore, it has to be considered part of the same overall storytelling universe.
This concerns us in two ways. First of all, let's turn our attention to The Drawing of the Three. Here's an excerpt from the chapter "Detta and Odetta":
“—last gunslinger,” Andrew said.He had been talking for quite awhile, but Andrew always talked and Odetta usually just let it flow over her mind the way you let warm water flow over your hair and face in the shower. But this did more than catch her attention; it snagged it, as if on a thorn.“I beg pardon?”“Oh, it was just some column in the paper,” Andrew said. “I dunno who wrote it. I didn’t notice. One of those political fellas. Prob’ly you’d know, Miz Holmes. I loved him, and I cried the night he was elected—”She smiled, touched in spite of herself. Andrew said his ceaseless chatter was something he couldn’t stop, wasn’t responsible for, that it was just the Irish in him coming out, and most of it was nothing – cluckings and chirrupings about relatives and friends she would never meet, half-baked political opinions, weird scientific commentary gleaned from any number of weird sources (among other things, Andrew was a firm believer in flying saucers, which he called you-foes) – but this touched her because she had also cried the night he was elected.“But I didn’t cry when that son of a bitch – pardon my French, Miz Holmes – when that son of a bitch Oswald shot him, and I hadn’t cried since, and it’s been – what, two months?”Three months and two days, she thought.“Something like that, I guess.”Andrew nodded. “Then I read this column – in The Daily News, it mighta been – yesterday, about how Johnson’s probably gonna do a pretty good job, but it won’t be the same. The guy said America had seen the passage of the world’s last gunslinger.”“I don’t think John Kennedy was that at all,” Odetta said, and if her voice was sharper than the one Andrew was accustomed to hearing (which it must have been, because she saw his eyes give a startled blink in the rear-view mirror, a blink that was more like a wince), it was because she felt herself touched by this, too. It was absurd, but it was also a fact. There was something about that phrase – America has seen the passage of the world’s last gunslinger – that rang deeply in her mind. It was ugly, it was untrue – John Kennedy had been a peacemaker, not a leather-slapping Billy the Kid type – but it had also for some reason given her goosebumps.“Well, the guy said there would be no shortage of shooters in the world,” Andrew went on, regarding her nervously in the rear-view mirror. “He mentioned Jack Ruby for one, and Castro, and this fellow in Haiti—”“Duvalier,” she said. “Poppa Doc.”“Yeah, him, and Diem—”“The Diem brothers are dead.”“Well, he said Jack Kennedy was different, that’s all. He said he would drawn, but only if someone weaker needed him to draw, and only if there was nothing else to do. He said Kennedy was savvy enough to know that sometimes talking don’t do no good. He said Kennedy knew if it’s foaming at the mouth you have to shoot it.”His eyes continued to regard her apprehensively.“Besides, it was just some column I read.”The limo was gliding up Fifth Avenue now, headed toward Central Park West, the Cadillac emblem on the end of the hood cutting the frigid February air.“Yes,” Odetta said mildly, and Andrew’s eyes relaxed a trifle. “I understand. I don’t agree, but I understand.”You are a liar, a voice spoke up in her mind. This was a voice she heard quite often. She had even named it. It was the voice of The Goad. You understand perfectly and agree completely. Lie to Andrew if you feel it necessary, but for God’s sake don’t lie to yourself, woman.Yet part of her protested, horrified. In a world which had become a nuclear powderkeg upon which nearly a billion people now sat, it was a mistake – perhaps one of suicidal proportions – to believe there was a difference between good shooters and bad shooters. There were too many shaky hands holding lighters near too many fuses. This was no world for gunslingers. If there had ever been a time for them, it had passed.
This is an interesting passage not because it impacts upon the plot of 11/22/63 in any way, but simply because it illustrates the point that even around the time of The Drawing of the Three, King seemed to come down on the side of thinking that Kennedy's death was ka. I remembered that little scene between Odetta and Andrew a couple of days after finishing 11/22/63, and looked it up to see if my memory had gotten it right; it had.
And at that point, something else occurred to me: if you proceed from the assumption that Jake's exploits are taking place in the same universe as the one Odetta, Eddie, and Jake come from, then all of a sudden it becomes vitally important to the story of The Dark Tower that Jake not succeed in changing the course of events. There is nothing specific in 11/22/63 to point to idea that the altered version of 2011 has changed the lives of Eddie Dean or Jake Chambers, but the notion of another character named Jake serves as a bit of a harmonic ... one that Jake Epping is unaware of, but a harmonic nevertheless. Also, it is not at all a stretch of the imagination to think that either Eddie or Jake or both might indeed HAVE been fundamentally altered. Eddie's brother Henry was a Vietnam vet, after all; that might have changed in the altered timeline, thereby altering Eddie's life, and possibly even preventing Roland from being able to Draw him.
Even worse, the changes to the time-line might have had an affect of some sort -- direct or indirect -- on the Rose which exists in an abandoned lot in New York. If the Rose falls, then the Tower falls, and if the Tower falls, then all of reality is plunged into Todash darkness.
I don't think it's much of a stretch at all to speculate that the watery ripping noises Jake hears in the sky in 2011 Mark 2 might be the sound of Beams collapsing, and the process of the Tower beginning to fall. Might this be explainable by means of saying that due to Jake Epping's actions, Roland and his ka-tet has been unable even to form, much less to prevent the Crimson King from succeeding in his quest to destroy the Tower?
I don't think it's a stretch at all. I also don't think it's a stretch at all to suggest that the Green Card Man -- Zack Land, originally from Seattle -- might be a representative of some version of the Tet Corporation, which within the Dark Tower tales was established to combat the Sombra Corporation, which was an agency of the Crimson King.
Until King comes and says something one way or another, it's probably foolish to think of this as an accurate interpretation, but it seems to track. In any case, that's the way I read it: because of his actions, Jake Epping has enacted a series of events which will culminate in the fall of the Dark Tower and the victory of the Crimson King, and because of this, the Tower itself has structured reality in such a fashion as to -- along with assistance from the friendly Tet Corporation -- prevent Jake from being able to allow his actions to stand.
It's also worth mentioning that the mystic -- and highly Dark Tower-relevant -- number 19 is all over this novel. Harry even tells Jake about a nuclear meltdown which took place on June 19, 1999!
One final note. 11/22/63 also features several appearances my a model of car which ought to be familiar to King fans: the 1958 Plymouth Fury.
Inevitably, this is going to result in speculation as to whether one of the cars we see is Christine herself. I don't find any evidence at all to indicate that this is the case. I skimmed Christine a bit, and didn't see any evidence that would connect that Fury to any of the events or locales of 11/22/63.
However ... it IS possible that we are meant to think that the Plymouth Fury outside the Worumbo plant in Lisbon Falls is the property of the Yellow Card Man, and possibly even the vessel he uses -- they use -- to travel to our universe from wherever it is they come from. The Low Men, as we know, use vehicles which appear to our eyes as cars, but in fact are something else entirely. The Yellow/Green Card Men, who appear to be benevolent opposites of the Low Men in Yellow Coats, might well use a similar mode of transportation, and it is perhaps not beyond the realm of possibility to consider that Christine might have been one of these which somehow got away from them and ended up in the possession of Roland LeBay. Perhaps that alienness is what could have permitted Christine to become haunted in the first place...?
Personally, I don't think so. I think this is just a case of there being multiple Plymouth Furies in the world.
But you never know...