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Revival: A Novel Hardcover – November 11, 2014
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"The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, The Lying Game. Pre-order today
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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)
“Revival is easily his best work in years…fresh…an excellent, simply written story…filled with suspense and curiosity, it’s a one-day read for King fans.” (Boston Herald)
“As with most of his work Mr. King excels at capturing the small moments of the real world, the things that are human and common to everyone. This is a world we all know and recognize. It makes the darkness that lies just beyond our perception seem more real as well.” (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
“All of the elements that have made King the preeminent American horror author come alive in this ultra-creepy tale of love, loss, evil and electricity…. Riveting.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“Revival buzzes with allusions to horror classics….Revival gives familiar themes—the relationship between science and religion, the fine line between grief and madness—new power. It’s King in electrifyingly fine form.” (Tampa Bay Times)
“As the Kingian references pile up, and become layered into the events of the fictional world, you fall deeper and deeper under the story’s spell, almost believing that Jamie’s nightmarish experiences actually happened…reading Revival is experiencing a master storyteller having the time of his life. All of his favorite elements are at play – small town Maine, the supernatural, the evil genius, the obsessive addict, the power of belief to transform a life…it is fun to map it all out, to experience King’s mind at work.” (New York Times Book Review)
“A fresh adrenaline rush of terror from Stephen King…Maine, rock and roll, engaging characters and a pounding build to a grisly end – this is vintage King.” (People)
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Top customer reviews
This is a very quick read, which in my experience makes for a much better story. It moves along with very little stumbling. Conversation between characters feels real and adds to the quickness of reading and flow.
By no means is this his best but it's good. I enjoyed it and would recommend it with the caveat of "You'll likely not take to the ending."
I had some trouble getting interested in this book until roughly 100 pages in when Jamie's music career begins. The childhood portion of his story is in many ways sweet, but feels a bit rushed on the character development. In fact, I would say that this book had a rushed feel about it overall, at least rushed by King's usual standards, as he is so known for lengthy (and excellent) character development in earlier works. Scenes and people breeze past in Revival before the reader gets much of a chance to get a solid feel for them, and something about it feels underdeveloped.
(Mild plot spoilers from this point on:) The strongest section of the book by far is the middle third when Jamie Morton becomes interested in playing guitar, picking up his brother's dusty ax on a whim and finding he is more or less a natural. Once he begins playing with various bands in high school and beyond, there are some great passages lusciously describing the experience of performing live music and all that goes with it: shaky nerves, the thrill of applause, impressing cute girls in the crowd, etc. Jamie primarily plays in cover bands, and King goes to the trouble to mention quite a few specific bands and songs from the fifties and sixties (some nostalgia on his part, no doubt) that they perform, which only adds to the liveliness of these passages. To top this all off, Jamie develops a serious drug problem which makes for a more enthralling read.
The section following Jamie's music career (but before the big climax) is only mildly interesting. Jamie is growing older and acquires a job at a recording studio/ranch in Nederland, Colorado. Jacobs is now a traveling tent revival preacher with nationwide hype. He travels from city to city and apparently “heals” people with his secret and powerful electricity inventions. There are some fun moments here (like the over-the-top charismatic religious language), but the healing reverend concept feels like something we've seen before.
(SEVERE spoilers, this paragraph only:) Some King readers have taken issue with the big finish to Revival, as it was perceived by many to be a rather random left-turn. The idea of a secret, terrifying “behind-the-curtain” world of damnation and slavery for all mankind at the hands (claws?) of ant-like beasts accessed by means of Jacobs' “secret electricity” seemed to some like a bit of a stretch. I admit, there are hardly any indications earlier in the book that it is leading anywhere remotely supernatural (which, granted, preserves the element of surprise), other than the indication that the electrical force Jacobs has tapped into may have some spiritual or otherworldly origins. The ending reminded me somewhat of the ending to Under the Dome, if only for its completely unexpected turn and inexplicable, there-are-things-bigger-than-us-in-the-universe quality. There is also a definite nod to the works and universe of H.P. Lovecraft (of whom King has been a lifelong fan), specifically the mention towards the end of “The Great Ones.”
Personally, I liked the ending, zany though it was. I'm always up for a wildly crazy conclusion in the right time and place. However, this ending almost feels like a random weird conclusion just for the sake of weirdness. The book builds and builds, but it is almost as if King didn't know how to end it in a logical way, so he threw in some Crazy. That's an unfair criticism, I confess. Maybe King had this particular ending in mind the whole time, and the book is simply imbalanced. But again, that is not to say it is, on the whole, bad.
Still, anyone claiming that Revival is 'KING'S TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO TRUE HORROR, WITH THE CLASSIC QUALITY OF HIS EARLIER WORKS!' is just a yes-man or -woman who is going to put five stars on anything the man puts out.
Revival isn't great, but neither is it crap. In my view, a middling King book is still at the same level of quality as a very good book from any other writer. The man is a genius, but even the masters write a dud here and there.
P.S. I did catch a few minor links to The Dark Tower series. There are several mentions of a red race car stenciled on the side with the number 19. Also, I believe the band name Jamie plays with for the longest amount of time, "Chrome Roses," is also a passing reference to TDK universe.
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