My current favorite novel is Stephen King’s 11/22/63. I read it when it first came out, and have read it a total of five times since. Each time I read it, I like it more. I can’t say that it will always be my favorite novel. Favorites change with age and experience. But whenever I am asked for my favorite, this is the book I refer to.
Hulu is doing an 8-part miniseries of King’s novel premiering on President’s Day, starring James Franco and directed by J.J. Abrams. For fans of the book, that seems like exciting news, and it probably is, but I won’t be watching the miniseries. I have nothing against Abrams, or Franco, or any of the cast and crew. I don’t have anything against Hulu. I am in no way boycotting the miniseries. But I can’t watch it.
The reason is Craig Wasson.
The first two times I read the book, I actually read the book. The last three times, I listened to the audiobook. The voice actor for Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is Craig Wasson, and the first time I listened to the audiobook, I knew that Craig Wasson was Jake Epping/George Amberson. No one else could possibly be that character. The story is told in first person, which makes his performance that much more powerful. The actor entirely disappears, and you are listening to a man tell his tale.
It is the best voice acting performance I’ve encountered.
And that is why I can’t watch the Hulu miniseries. James Franco is a fine actor, but he is not, in my mind, Jake Epping. Nor would I want him to be. I’m afraid that if I watched the miniseries, it would interfere with my image of Epping as portrayed by Craig Wasson. Once watched, the show cannot be unwatched.
I once had a similar dilemma nearly twenty years ago. A second Foundation trilogy was announced. I’ve always loved Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, and I thought he finished it off perfectly with Forward the Foundation. But I was intrigued with the new series because each book would be written by a different author. Gregory Benford wrote Foundation’s Fear; Greg Bear wrote Foundation and Chaos; and David Brin wrote Foundation’s Triumph. I agonized for months over whether I’d read the books. I finally decided to take the chance, and I had mixed results. Benford’s book was so-so. Bear’s book was better. But Brin knocked it out of the part with Foundation’s Triumph. Indeed, the ending of that book was a rare spark of literary genius.
I lucked out in that case, but I have grown more risk-averse as I’ve aged, and I don’t want to take the chance with the Hulu series. The truth is, I don’t think I can separate out the two mediums in my head as well as other people can, and I just adore Wasson’s performance in the audiobook.
If you haven’t listened to the audiobook version, I highly recommend it.