Revival by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton)

A spectacularly dark and electrifying novel about addiction, religion, music and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.

Decades later, Jamie is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Now an addict, he sees Jacobs again – a showman on stage, creating dazzling ‘portraits in lightning’ – and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.

Stephen King is the master of the horror genre and one of my favourite writers, however oddly, most of the stuff that I’ve read by King hasn’t been part of the genre that he’s most renowned for, 11.22.63, The Dark Tower series – they’ve all come from different genres, with a few exceptions. And when I spotted Revival on the bookshelves of my local supermarket, I knew I had to check it out and for the most part, the book is a success, even if it is a little flawed in places and not quite as memorable as I’d hoped for, which is a shame, but then again, it’s still a Stephen King novel, and at the end of the day, even if a fairly average Stephen King novel is still going to be a pretty good read.

Told like a few of King’s previous novels, Revival follows the protagonist looking back and narrating past events that happened to him, a device that’s often frowned upon as a way of telling stories but there is an exception to every rule and King handles the narration incredibly well. The book tells the story of a guitarist named Jamie Morton, who finds himself crossing paths with the mysterious priest Charles Jacob, who has a deep obsession with electricity and sees it as the be all and end all.

Revival focuses a lot on character and it feels very much like King’s works in the past – you know you’re reading a King book as he does nothing to break the norm of his writing. The character Jamie himself is an interesting protagonist and his lifestyle from rock musician to the studio overtime allowed for a good backdrop of the story, but Charles Jacobs was by far and away the most mysterious character here and the story kicked up a gear whenever he showed up with his mysterious intentions. However, that said, his character development didn’t always feel even, often changing gears completely depending on the scene, always being incredibly inconsistent.

The plot itself was unfortunately, mostly forgettable, and I wasn’t shocked or especially left jaw-dropped by Revival as I probably should have been. There were enough fascinating elements about the book to make it worth reading regardless, with the style of writing and its quality being the main draw as King’s pageturning narrative managed to keep my attention throughout.

The first act is where the best part of Revival is as King portrays Jamie’s character development and coming of age childhood incredibly well. We really got an insight into his life, but then, when the second act comes into the picture, everything starts to go wrong. Revival feels predictable and dull as it struggles to the finish, and even though it almost redeems itself in the final act, building on the fantastic atmosphere that runs throughout the novel, Revival never quite reaches that stage unfortunately.

The book almost feels like a victim to its own hype. It’s far from the greatest horror story that King has ever written and I actually enjoyed Joyland more than I did this, so it’s not his best novel in a while yet either. But it’s still an entertaining one and should be worth a look anyway, especially if you’re a fan of Stephen King’s work.

VERDICT: 7.5/10                                                                                                

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