Book Review: Stephen King's "Revival"

Feb 5, 2015

I never got the whole Stephen King thing. Growing up in the 80's, it was impossible to avoid him. Everyone seemed obsessed with King’s books and a new one seemed to hit the shelves each month. Of course, it wasn’t just the literary world, there was also always a new television mini-series or film in the works too. Stephen King was everywhere.

The times I’ve read his work in the past, I’ve usually walked away wondering exactly what all the fuss was about. His main characters always felt like variations of the author and every novel began in the same, predictable way. We open on some small, idyllic New England town where a strange little mystery with horrific undertones has begun to unfold. But what was always most disappointing about King’s novels for me was the endings. They just never seemed to live up to the terror felt by the characters during the first three-quarters of the book. It was like being promised a great meal and then being taken to McDonald’s.

"Revival" is Stephan King’s latest novel, and it begins exactly how you’d expect. The main character and his picturesque small New England town in the 1960's could have been plucked from any of King’s other books. What makes Revival stand out is Reverend Charles Jacobs, the new minister in town.

Jacobs is easily the most fascinating character I’ve read by King in quite some time. He is obsessed with electricity, and after the devastating death of his family, this obsession takes him to some very dark places. He is a mix of Dr. Frankenstein and a television preacher; and it’s a shame he isn’t the main character. For the five decades Revival covers, he is only on the periphery, making an occasional appearance. Instead, we follow the life of Jamie Morton, a rock musician who has spent years battling a drug addiction. With another author, or another novel, Jamie would have been enough, but not with an interesting character like Reverend Jacobs around.

The biggest disappointment for me with "Revival" though is, not surprisingly, the ending. Without ruining anything, the book’s finale borrows heavily from the dark writing of another master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft.  And as hard as King tries to incorporate this monstrous twist in the rest of the tale, it feels like a different book entirely. It left me wondering what the previous 400 pages filled with Jamie’s adventures were for. Even diehard King fans were probably left scratching their heads at the end of this novel.

Despite my own misgivings, "Revival" is sure to be another success. I think one of the reasons Stephen King has remained so popular is that his voice is so conversational. His prose is never challenging or overly poetic. And what I complain about as repetitive, for others may feel like comfort, like revisiting a friend you had missed. Of course, there is a chance this friend might be hiding a hatchet behind his back.

Scott Southard's novel "Permanent Spring Showers" was just released. Published by 5 Prince Books it can be find on any online retailer. More information and his writing can be found on his site "The Musings and Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard" at sdsouthard.com.