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Revival: A Novel Hardcover – November 11, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2014: How does Stephen King do it? In book after book, writing long (Under the Dome, 11/22/63) or short (Joyland) he manages, nearly always, to tell a compelling story that is both entertaining and somehow profound, or at least thoughtful. His latest, Revival, is vintage King. It’s the perfect mix of baby boomer nostalgia (think Stand By Me) – this guy remembers the 60s with details you usually can only find in photographs – and good old American horror, the kind that was first elevated by such minor writers as, say, Poe and Hawthorne. The story here centers on a reverend who comes to a New England town, befriends and mentors a young boy, and then goes wild with grief when his family dies in an accident; he gives a blasphemous sermon and is, basically, run out of town. Cut to: a couple decades later, when the boy, now a junkie, meets up by chance with the disgraced clergyman, and they form another disturbing relationship. Reverend Jacobs, it turns out, was always more complicated than the stereotypical man of God – he is fascinated by electricity, by science – and pretty demonic, too. How he and Jamie find and fight each other over their lifetimes is as shocking and inevitable as the explosive and, yes, horrorish, climax of the book. Never mind that King’s prose can sometimes lapse into laughable cliché – “like water through a sieve”? Really? – there is absolutely no better storyteller than Stephen King, who keeps us up at night, with fear and fascination and admiration. –Sara Nelson
“Spellbinding…King is a master at invoking the supernatural through the powerful emotions of his characters, and his depiction of Jacobs as a man unhinged by grief but driven by insatiable scientific curiosity is as believable as it is frightening. The novel’s ending – one of King’s best – stuns like lightning.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“King continues to point out the unspeakably spooky weirdness that lies on the fringes of ordinary life… No one does psychological terror better than King. Another spine-tingling pleasure for his fans.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“King fans won’t find anything to complain about here. At just over 400 pages it’s one of his quicker reads and any hint of the supernatural is blended with tender moments that ground the characters….If this is your first King novel, it’s not a bad choice. You don’t need to know anything about his oeuvre coming in, and if you like the writing style, there are dozens of other King books you’ll probably enjoy.” (Associated Press)
“Revival finds King writing with the infectious glee that has always been at the heart of his popular success… Older and wiser each time he writes, Mr. King has moved on from the physical fear that haunted him after he was struck by a van while out walking to a more metaphysical, universal terror. He writes about things so inevitable that he speaks to us all.” (The New York Times)
“Stephen King’s splendid new novel offers the atavistic pleasure of drawing closer to a campfire in the dark to hear a tale recounted by someone who knows exactly how to make every listener’s flesh crawl." (Washington Post)
“Revival is dark, disquieting and pretty horrifying, revealing a mind (the narrator’s, for sure; King’s, perhaps) searching for answers to life’s age-old questions about life and death.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“Revival is among King’s very best…tender, moving and terrifying.” (New York Daily News)
“Worshippers at the Universal Church of Stephen King have a lot to rejoice about with his latest literary sermon. Revival is a dark and haunting tale about old-time religion and one man's search for a mythic ‘secret electricity.’ At the same time it's an emotional and spectacular coming-of-age tale that spans 50 years of horrific tragedy and human redemption… Revival is often heartfelt, as characters deal with painful loss, and the author invests you wholly in the separate journeys of Jamie and Charlie as they arrive at their inevitable crossroads and a voltaic endgame. Say hallelujah, for the King has risen to the occasion once again.” (USA Today)
“This is King’s darkest novel in quite a while… King retains his aw-shucks accessibility and writes about addiction and shattered bones with the insight of personal experience… Revival is a wrestling match between faith and science, and watching King throw himself into that eternal theological debate within the context of a horror novel is fascinating. This is the sort of book he couldn’t have written when he was younger; it’s the work of someone who has lived a long life and experienced its highs and lows.” (Miami Herald)
“It’s a good, scary story, but it’s so much more. Every page is a treasure trove of detail about daily life in America, in the 1960s or whatever decade King’s story lights on. There are tiny stories within stories, and headlines, road signs, soapsuds, state fairs, storefronts … It’s pure poetry.” (Raleigh News and Observer)
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So that's largely what I did with this story. And most of the good stuff comes right at the end, and doesn't last for very long. That's okay, though. When you have such a story as this one, you learn alot about people- however deviant those people might be. But for much of the story you have to slog through the depressing life of a heroin addict, as well as his boring adventures as a second-rate rthym guitarist. The dreariness is compounded by reading about all the sick people out there, many of whom will never be healed by the Reverend and his "secret electricity".
In any case, when you get to know someone this thoroughly, you get a real appreciation for how much people can change over time. And this story does an excellent job at examining that. You see how, not just a few, but many people change over time- some for the better, some for the worse. It's all very heartfelt and human. And I assume Stephen King does this to make the supernatural stuff seem more real, more believable. But I do think it was laid on a little thick this time. I would have preferred less romance and soap-opera, and more sci-fi.
Anyway, overall, the story was compelling enough to make it worth my time. And I do hope there is better afterlife waiting for us than the one conjured up in this dreary story.
This is not so much a linear story as it is an autobiography of the narrator's life and his interactions with the other main character. The entire book is build-up to the shocking climax, and while there were hints and foreshadowing of the climax and of the characters' motivations, the ending scene was mostly terrifying and powerful. I also appreciated the use of the carny 'Talk' from Joyland (and even references to that titular park) in a certain part of the story.
Only a few complaints: the pacing seemed a bit off in a certain part of the story, and while I got the point of it, an extremely important event in the narrator's life ended up seeming glossed over, even though that moment should have had more focus given it because of its impact on the story. Second, as strong as the two main characters are, the supporting cast was completely forgettable--a rare flaw in a King novel. Finally, the ending scene--which really is surprising--was just a tad....I don't know. Absurd is the only word that comes to mind--there was just something about it that seemed strangely out of left field, and this aspect of it took away from the otherwise strong scene. Maybe the event will end up being tied into the greater King-Dark Tower universe in future novels? Or be expanded upon? I would have at least liked to see a bit more about it.
Still, King has been on a roll lately, and he continues it with Revival.
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Revival was, for me, so satisfying.Read more