By Stephen King

(Scribner, $30, 416 pages)

Who is this author?

Stephen King, our contemporary king of horror fiction, has published more than 50 books and all of them have gained international best-sellerdom. Many have been made into haunting films – The Shining, Cujo, Christine – and TV series, such as Under the Dome, and his nonfiction guidebook/memoir On Writing has become a classic of its kind. His novel 11/22/63 was a named by The New York Times Book Review to its top 10 list for 2011 and also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/and  Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. In 2003, King won the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Maine, where many of his harrowing tales are set, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King, but as a boy, he lived for a time in Stratford CT, in some ways, he says, a model for his fictional town of Derry, ME.

What is this book about?

Spanning half a century, Revival plays around with mad scientist-Frankenstein elements, and probes how fanaticism can entwine with religion and with science, to no good ends. It begins in a New England town, where a young boy, like most of the town, becomes fascinated by a charismatic new minister and his beautiful wife. But when a devastating auto accident wipes out the minister’s family, he leaves the church and bitterly mocks religion, becoming obsessed with the power of electricity. Meanwhile, the boy grows up to become a guitar player in rock bands and a heroin addict. Eventually, of course, they meet again and explore the ex-minister’s theories about “secret electricity” and its supposed powers to heal – and maybe to do even more. As countless characters in horror stories and films (including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) have pointed out: “Perhaps there are some things man was never meant to tamper with.”

Why you’ll like it:

As with the best of King’s prodigious output, this one opens doorways you’re afraid to step through. King’s genius is his talent for creating believable characters speaking believable dialogue in the most unbelievable of situations, and it works every time. The clash between those who see the world through the lens of religion and those who see it through science is ongoing and flaring up anew, and this book plays with those larger concepts in a powerful and provocative way.

What others are saying:

The New York Times Book Review says:  “…Revival is pure Stephen King. Like many of King’s novels, it is filled with cultural allusions both high and low: In addition to the Bible and Frankenstein, there are references to Thomas Edison’s work at Menlo Park, Dan Brown, The X Files, the “Forbidden Books” (that is, grimoires banned and burned by the Catholic Church) and particularly Ludvig Prinn’s The Mysteries of the Worm…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 fictional elements are at play—small-town Maine, the supernatural, the evil genius, the obsessive addict, the power of belief to transform a life.

And in The New York Times, Janet Maslin writes: “. . . tenderly realistic despite its roots in horror and science fiction…Revival…finds [King] writing with the infectious glee that has always been at the heart of his popular success…[it] is a well-built book that unfolds on a big canvas…Revival winds up with the idea that to be human, you must know what it is to be inhuman—and to know that only this thin partition separates that horror from ordinary life. So it’s not just a book that delivers its share of jolts and then lets the reader walk away unscathed. 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.”

Publishers Weekly’s starred review says: “This spellbinding supernatural thriller from MWA Grand Master King chronicles one man’s efforts to, as narrator Jamie Morton phrases it, “tap into the secrets of the universe.” Charles Jacobs, a Methodist minister in rural Harlow, Maine, loses his faith when his wife and child die in a hideous car accident, but not his obsessive interest in electricity. Over the next 50 years, Jamie—a devoted congregant of Jacobs’s when young, but a wary skeptic as he matures—crosses paths with his friend as the constantly experimenting Jacobs graduates from carnival huckster, to faith healer, and finally to mad scientist convinced that he can harness a “secret electricity” to get a glimpse of “some unknown existence beyond our lives.” 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.”

Says Kirkus Reviews:  “In his second novel of 2014 (the other being Mr. Mercedes), veteran yarn spinner King continues to point out the unspeakably spooky weirdness that lies on the fringes of ordinary life. Think of two central meanings of the title—a religious awakening and bringing someone back to life—and you’ll have King’s latest in a nuthouse. Beg pardon, nutshell, though of course it’s madness that motivates all his most memorable characters. In this instance, a preacher arrives in a small New England town—always a small New England town—with an attractive wife and small child. Soon enough, bad things happen: “The woman had a dripping bundle clasped to her breast with one arm. One arm was all Patsy Jacobs could use, because the other had been torn off at the elbow.” And soon enough, the good reverend, broken by life, is off to other things, while our protagonist drinks deep of the choppy waters of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. “My belief had ended,” Jamie Morton says, simply—that is, until Rev. Jacobs turns up in his life again, after having spent time at the horrifying North Carolina amusement park that is Joyland (for which see King’s 2013 novel of the same name) and mastered not just the carney’s trade, but also the mysterious workings of “secret electricity.” Well, as Victor Frankenstein learned, electricity can sometimes get away from a fellow, and though young Jamie pleads with the bereaved pastor to get himself back on the good foot (“The newspapers would call you Josef Mengele.” “Does anyone call a neurosurgeon Josef Mengele just because he loses some of his patients?”), once it sets to crackling, the secret electricity can’t be put back into the bottle. Faith healing run amok: It’s a theme that’s exercised King since Carrie, and though this latest is less outright scary and more talky than that early touchstone, it compares well. No one does psychological terror better than King. Another spine-tingling pleasure for his fans.”

Library Journal also gives it a starred review:  “King’s latest (after Doctor Sleep) is narrated by Jamie Morton, who is six years old when he meets Rev. Charles Jacobs. New to Harlow, ME, Jacobs, along with his pretty young wife and toddler, quickly become the local attraction. Jamie and his family discover that Jacobs has a love of electricity and is quite ingenious with his inventions. Soon, though, tragedy strikes the reverend, and the losses he endures cause him to give a sermon that gets him fired from the ministry and banished from town. Years later, Jamie, now in his 30s and addicted to heroin, meets Jacobs again. Noticing how Jacobs has changed, Jamie worries about the man’s constant tinkering with what Jacobs calls “secret electricity.” Jacobs begins to heal people using his knowledge of electricity, but Jamie finds that there are terrible side effects. VERDICT King (The Stand) fans will rejoice that the horror master is back in fine form. While there are fewer characters than in many of his other tomes, each character is well drawn and worth following. The ending is exquisitely horrific and will leave the reader hoping this is only a work of fiction.”

When is it available?

Don’t be scared to look for this book. You can find it at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Barbour, Blue Hills, Camp Field, Dwight and Park branches.

Do you have something to say about this book, this author or books in general? Please post your comments here and I will respond. Let’s get a good books conversation going!

Comments are closed.