Revival by Stephen King

Updated: 4 days ago

Revival by Stephen King


I'm constantly amazed by the sheer versatility of Stephen King's writing, from the classic horror novels of the early years, through the emergence of 'The Dark Tower' series in the middle phase and more recently onwards to novels such as Revival, which have a different feel all over again.


Jamie Morton is harmlessly playing with his toy soldiers, making a fort for them out of dry earth as he imagines the US fighting the Germans in World War II. A shadow falls across him in every sense when the new pastor at his family's church shows an interest.


The small town of Harlow, Maine (in which Jamie's father runs a petrol station and fuel supply company) has recently appointed Charles Jacobs, who has arrived in town with his perfect wife Patsy and son Morrie. By the time Jacobs leaves Harlow only a few years later, his family have been killed in a road accident, his faith is in shreds and he's been fired for delivering what Jamie refers to as the Terrible Sermon.


Jacobs' almost obsessive interest in electricity and bizarre gift in generating it leads him onto his next job - carnival shyster selling 'electric portraits'. But the side effects suffered by his sitters soon emerge, and he's forced to leave in a hurry.


Meanwhile, Jamie's career as a guitarist in a succession of rock bands mean he's too busy killing himself with heroin to care about what's happened to his old buddy.


Also cut loose from the ties that bind is Charles Jacobs. After the grieving young widower lost his wife and son in a terrible road accident, he delivered the Terrible Sermon to his aghast congregation not long after, and then disappeared, resurfacing years later as a carnival huckster with a mysterious ability to produce electricity.


Jacobs resurfaces as 'Pastor Danny', using a succession of near aliases and reinventing himself as a faith healer. His dark propensities with electricity are funded by his religious donations, and his obsession with reviving the dead and reaching 'the other side' intensify. The awful question remains: what is Jacobs going to find when he gets the link up and running?


The cover of Revival by Stephen King shows a church.
Revival by Stephen King

Jamie becomes suspicious of his old friend's motivation and is concerned about the terrible side effects of Jacobs' powers. He researches the after effects suffered by those people Jacobs has 'helped' with his shock treatment.


I really appreciated the biographical feel to Revival and its searing honesty. Stephen King's struggles with alcohol and drug addiction are well known, but by returning to his Maine childhood and using it as an inspiration (this is far from being a literal autobiography) he's given us a glimpse of his own growing up, too. Revival has a gentle feel, and for large parts the horror is deceptively low key. I loved it as a positive but still ultimately chilling portrait of grief, loss and obsession.


Revival by Stephen King is of the gentlest horror stories I've read all year, and one of the most character driven too. That said, the climax is terrifying, perhaps far more than the gentle pace of the tale so far would prepare the reader for. I loved the dark direction that emerged at the end, and the juxtaposition of this with the character-driven plot most of the way through.


Thank you for reading my review of Revival by Stephen King. I'll be back on Monday. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


You can buy Revival by Stephen King as an ebook here or as an audiobook here. You can subscribe to my blog here.


If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested in reading my review of Locke and Key here. Or you might like to take a look at my review of In the Tall Grass here.


If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake here.

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