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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)
“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
Some of the girls, less familiar with King's work, came into the discussion having had liked the book but were unsure of the ending. Those of us who were more knowledgeable in King's work were able to dissect the ending in a way that worked and lay out realistic possibilities for the flow and point of the novel. I disagree with most of the 1 and 2 star ratings that speak about this ending and King's view of the afterlife.. it's clear the book wasn't read carefully or that even that part was carefully read. Perhaps it was just too overtly shocking to be understood in one sitting.
Overall it was a highly satisfying ending with a moral return - we are not meant to know what follows this life and working with forces and powers beyond your means will only show you something incredibly dark and inhuman. This book is truly a Frankenstein/Lovecraft type tale that has a strong punch of human humility. Most of the characters in this novel suffer from various forms of mental and emotional obsessions, sickness orr injuries and these weaknesses are juxtaposed against potential power and alchemy that promises answers and healing, but is not a healthy or accurate source of either. To fall prey to such powers is to fall prey to the darkness... incredibly poetic. That being said, there is not a single spoiler here that will ruin your enjoyment of the novel, as it's laid out quite early in the book (sickness vs healing).
The discussions in book club were strong and could have run for a couple more hours, incredibly. We usually fall short of conversation but in this instance it was time to go home to our families and no one was really done. There was much to talk about... religion (childhood vs. adulthood), life hobbies and passions, lost love, fifth business, addictions, sickness, family, women roles vs. male roles in the various topics above... The book is rich in controversy and topics.
Things that kept this from being a five star novel: The book is long-winded in areas that we felt could have been shorter. We wanted just a but more explanation about the "secret power" (which is ironic, I know). We felt there was some unnecessary darkness dropped into this book that wasn't necessarily helpful to the novel itself. The marketing of this book is horror and we felt it didn't exactly fit horror (except in that classic Lovecraft/Shelley way) so in that we relented that perhaps it's Gothic horror. Mostly it's nostalgic King which brings to mind The Body (Stand by Me), Blockade Billy, The Green Mile, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and finally Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption... and of course Joyland. If you liked those titles by King, you may enjoy Revival. This is not a slam-punch horror piece with an obvious villain. This book is more psychological and, in it, we... humans are the villains.... though that's up to your own interpretation of course.
We played some fun games and the food was good (some carnival themes happening). Overall the book rated a 7 which comes within the top ten of the 44 books we've read. This may not work for all book clubs depending on what content is acceptable to you (this book contains sexual references, references to drugs and alcohol, graphic death, religious and cultural hot topics, etc.) but it worked for us. We say recommended!
Stephen King is known for writing about dark subjects, but this book's MESSAGE is dark, darker than any of his others, darker than the Darkest Tower - yet once the monster was revealed, it just plain wasn't scary. It was like a Halloween house of horrors that has you on edge until suddenly you glimpse that it's boring old Mr. Smith underneath the vampire makeup. Life after death is comprised of giant ant-like things that drive columns of naked humans forward through a ruined cyclopean city forever? <Yawn>
I much prefer the Steve King who wrote "The Reach" - another tale of what awaits us in the great beyond that was uplifting and full of hope. But if he must take the "we're all doomed" approach, I would have expected something more truly horrifying, more BELIEVABLY horrifying, from the former master of horror.
It makes me wonder if King, whose work I've read faithfully for most of my life and who has been one of my biggest inspirations as a writer, has lost more than his religion in his journey toward old age. He seems to have grown more cynical, somehow angry at the world (the political rant undertone of "Under the Dome" was one manifestation), or at least that's what his novels convey.
His talent is still intact. The turns of phrase are still brilliant; the ability to capture the nuances of human existence and relationships, such as the one between Jamie and Charlie is a true gift. But King has always done better when he kept the horror subtle and real - the awful consequences of rabies in "Cujo," the utter despair and desperation of losing a child in "Pet Sematary," the intricate earthly battle of good and evil in "The Stand." Even Roland's alternate universe in the Dark Tower series was woven so well into the fabric of universal truths that it made me believe.
I believed in Jamie's addiction and his enduring bond with Astrid after all the years. I believed in Charlie's madness and the power of the lightning and the afteraffects of the treatments. I could even believe in the unlikely revival of Mary Fay. But my suspension of disbelief just wouldn't stretch far enough to be terrified or even disturbed by "Mother." I felt as if I had suddenly dropped out of a carefully crafted production into the worst B horror movie. I kept hoping he would somehow pull it out in the end, turn it around, delight me with some trick and have Jamie discover that what he saw was the real fakery. That he didn't, that he left his protagonist treading water in that mire of almost silly hopelessness, was a big disappointment.