As Stephen King gets older his work output is not waning – if anything he is more prolific now than ever before. In both 2013 and 2014 he released two books in each year; in the last 6 years he has released 7 books, 2 of which run to close to 1000 pages. King’s books are also aging well – Under the Dome and 11/22/63 both examples of some of his best work. Revival is no exception in this great run of form. I will always be inclined to enjoy a new King novel, but I can always distinguish between the good ones and the really good ones. Revival starts off as the former but the ending is quite brilliant.
Revival is the story of a man, Jamie Morton, starting out when he is just a very young boy and following his life through to his sixties. It is the story of Jamie and his relationship with Charles Jacobs, a church minister in his home town, which he meets throughout his life at different junctions. Jamie is a likable character that the reader stays with for the entire book, he has his flaws which are believable and acceptable. One of the main themes within the novel is addiction – this has been a huge part of King’s novels over the years (unsurprisingly), and the reader follows Jamie into heroin addiction. This isn’t the only addiction within the book though.
I will not go in to any further plot details, I read Revival without knowing anything about it and think for this book it definitely worth avoiding any main plot arcs. I haven’t given anything away and I would advise anybody who plans to read Revival to steer clear of plot spoilers. The ending for me would have had less impact had I not gone in cold. What I will say though is that the story is well paced, the characters (not just Jamie and Charles) are interesting and well rounded. I wanted to read on because I wanted to know how Jamie’s life would turn out. King writes his characters so well that you care for them, you want to know how life will turn out for them. The reader meets Jamie at such a young age that you receive a true life story.
King himself describes Revival as a “balls to the wall” supernatural horror and told readers on his twitter feed “If you’re going to buy it, better tone up your nerves.” This I do not disagree with, the novel throughout isn’t particularly scary, however, the ending is something else. There are a few pages during the final climax of the novel that were genuinely frightening; on more than one occasion I felt a strong shiver run through me. The images that King brings to mind and the thoughts he provokes unnerved me, these same images stayed with me for several days. This is quite a rare thing for me, especially with a horror novel.
Revival is not King’s scariest novel, it is not his best novel, but it is good and it is original. I like that he has released this book just 5 months after releasing a straight crime thriller (Mr. Mercedes). I like that he still has that ability to build a story to a supernatural climax and give the reader a genuine shock. I like that he can still build a story inviting the reader into a world that becomes increasingly bizarre, then drops the reader into a chaotic inescapable abyss. The reader believes in the story and the characters completely, regardless of any supernatural element to the story. King’s storytelling ability is extraordinary and cannot be ignored.
If you have read Revival you may like:
- Cujo by Stephen King
- The Passage by Justin Cronin
- The Rats by James Herbert