A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.
In a small New England town, over half a century ago, 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, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs -- including Jamie's mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family's horrific loss. In his mid-thirties -- addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate -- Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with 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 Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Stephen King is an immediate buy for me, one of those authors who embody the phrase "would read their shopping lists". I understand that this far from the case for everybody, though I don't think anyone could claim that a writer whose career spans such classics as The Stand, The Shawshank Redemption or Misery is a hack. His "retirement" has ended up being one of his most prolific periods and it is clear from his recent novels that King is now just having fun - he is writing what he wants how he wants it, knowing full well that no matter what he writes it will sell, and sell well.
Revival is far from being his best work, but it is a great read nevertheless. Though less gripping than Mr. Mercedes, Revival is King's take on the Frankenstein story, in the same way that Salem's Lot was his take on Dracula. Dealing with such a classic of the horror genre would be risky for a less accomplished writer, but King is good enough to pull it off. Though the homage to Frankenstein (the mad scientist, the link between electricity and life) are clear, they are twisted and changed enough for it not to matter. Throughout, King takes the story on unexplored paths, turning Revival into a relatively epic tale for such a short book (compared to The Stand or It - Revival is by no means a short book!)
As usual, King shines in the conclusion of the book - everything comes together into an extremely thrilling end, with characters forced into collision. This final section contains some of the most horrific imagery King has used in his more recent work, providing a chilling ideal of the afterlife that I would imagine will stay with readers for a long time. Throughout, King never loses sight of the key - the characters. We see Jamie and Charles go through some terrible experiences and it is interesting to see how both men take those experiences and use them in very different ways.
Though not a classic King, Revival is a great horror novel, combining King's interest in Americana and rock and roll with a Frankensteinesque plot.
I gave Revival 4 stars.