Fiction Reviews


Revival

(2014) Stephen King, Hodder and Stoughton 20.00, hrdbk, 373pp, ISBN 978-1444-78917-1

 

Fair ye not, or maybe you should be afraid, very afraid, because this is after all a Stephen King novel, his 58th if I've added up my fingers and toes (several times) correctly, but in case you are worried that The King is straying further away from that horror vein he has mined so well in the past, especially after the 'thrillerness' of his previous offering Mr. Mercedes, then like I say, fear not, all is well, or it won't be for long and we know we are in for a bad time before Revival even gets started as King dedicates this book to 'some of the people who built his house', namely Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei, Fritz Leiber, August Derleth, Shirley Jackson, Robert Bloch, and Peter Straub; and in particular it is dedicated to Arthur Machen, 'whose short novel The Great God Pan has haunted me all my life', and maybe, just maybe, he is channelling them all, and possibly trying to outdo them, but has he? Well, the great man himself calls Revival 'a nasty, dark piece of work', but for someone who once charted his scares from inducing terror at the top to the 'gross out' right at the bottom, we are clearly in the top half of the league of terror.

Not that you would think so at the start, because Revival is a slow burner, told from the viewpoint of Jamie Morton, who starts by looking back on his boyhood life when he was just six years old and playing in the sun and a shadow falls over him, cast by the new minister in town, one Charles Jacobs, who is young and enthusiastic, who has it made even if he is a minister of all things, because he is handsome and has a beautiful wife that the teenage boys lust after, and a precocious little boy, and while he may preach the word of God, he worships another God, perhaps a false one called electricity. The two of them bond right from that first meeting, and Jamie loves the new minister, like a lot of his congregation do, but Jacobs has four major loves in his life, and he can even use the power of electricity to cure Jamie's brother after a skiing accident, and dazzle the young 'uns with his tricks, but because of a tragic accident two of the minister's loves are taken away from him by a cruel and capricious God, that might not even exist or so Jacobs tells his stunned congregation in a black sermon he delivers from the pulpit. Soon he is sacked and cast out with only his love of electricity left to hold on to. So we are left Jamie and his family and a typically Kingsian story unfolds of everyday small town family life with all its joys and sorrows as Jamie picks up a guitar and finds he has some talent with it (let's not forget that King himself plays guitar, more recently in The Rock Bottom Remainders and while Jamie's love of guitar playing and music shines through, I am sure King would be first to admit that perhaps he is not as talented as his creation). Jamie falls in love with a girl called Astrid, but it's not long until he's on the road and it's a tale of sex, drugs and rock and roll, or maybe just the drugs part and Jamie is wasting his talent and abandoned by his latest band and somehow finds himself in a big tent watching Charlie Jacobs cure people with the power of 'secret' electricity.

Jacobs cures Jamie of his addiction and gives him the chance of a new life working in a recording studio, owned by someone else he cured with his 'secret electricity', someone who sees things occasionally out of the corner of his eye, horribly things that almost drives him insane. Jamie is hooked by Jacobs' power. He's been cured, so have others, but is it an act, a scam, and does being cured come at a price? Can Jacobs really cure the sick? Cure cancer? Restore senses? Make the lame walk? But what does he really want? What is he working towards? There really is the mystery to solve as the horror gathers subtly and subtly throughout the book while the storm to end all storms gathers overhead and Jacobs gathers Jamie to his bosom for one last favour because their lives are intertwined and Jamie despite his reservations and impending sense of dread has to see this through to the shocking conclusion that unfolds. What is it? Well, that would waste the novel for you, but the clue is in the dedication, but the horror, oh, the horror. Let's just say that Revival is recommended, but just keep all the lights on, and your eyes straight ahead, even when you hear something over your shoulder, maybe getting closer. No, don't look.

Ian Hunter


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