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You will find some of Stephen King’s best writing on the back cover of the newly published REVIVAL. The idea is that you will pick up the book, flip it over, and see what turns out to be the first two paragraphs, leading you to buy and read it. And you will. King touches on a slice of life that anyone with enough ideas to rub together to create a thought will recognize immediately, and it’s enough of a tug to lead you right into the jaws of REVIVAL, where you initially will go somewhat sedately and deeply until you realize that teeth have clamped down behind you and there’s nowhere to go but into the pit.

The narrator is a gentleman named Jamie Morton, who starts the story rolling in 1962 when he is six years old, and proceeds with some scattered hops, skips and jumps to take the reader through nearly six decades. Things kick off benevolently enough with Jamie playing outside the family home with a foot locker full of plastic soldiers when a shadow literally falls across his life. The manifestation of this not-so-subtle metaphor is the new minister for the Methodists of the small Maine town where Jamie and his family reside. Accompanied by his attractive wife and young son, the Reverend Charles Jacobs has come to revitalize the church to its former glory, which he does for a time.

"REVIVAL is fearfully and wonderfully dedicated to a number of old-school horror authors, and the reason for this becomes all too clear by the time one reaches the book’s finish line."

Jacobs is quite popular with the faithful, but religion is not his only interest. He also dabbles in and experiments with electricity, occasionally using some advanced applications of the power as a means to entertain the youth fellowship and, as we discover early enough, to help folks. All is well until a sudden tragedy sends Jacobs off the rails; he soon delivers a grief-induced sermon that results in the Methodist congregation sending him packing.

Life goes on for Jamie and his family. Jamie learns how to play guitar. He joins a band, loses his virginity, joins other bands and, in due course, becomes a touring musician and ultimately an itinerant heroin addict. He is just about at rock bottom when he encounters Jacobs in an unlikely place, seemingly working a minor miracle. Jacobs recognizes his former parishioner almost immediately, despite the passage of a couple of decades and the ravages of addiction, and throws Jamie a lifeline. Remember that fascination with electricity I mentioned earlier? Jacobs has continued his studies and puts them to good use for Jamie: 30 seconds or so of the Jacobs treatment, and that monkey on Jamie’s back is permanently caged. As a parting gift, Jacobs also hooks up Jamie with a job at a Colorado recording studio. It appears that Jamie’s life is back on track thanks to Jacobs. But there’s a pea in the bed that Jamie just can’t ignore as he rolls over it, one that leads him to believe that all is not well in Jacobs’ world.

When Jacobs comes back on his radar once again after an interval of several years, Jamie is troubled by what he sees. By then the world, as King might say, has moved ahead, and Jacobs has widened his congregation and electrical expertise. He is using his knowledge and talents in what seems on the surface to be a benevolent manner. As Jamie eventually discovers, though, there is a cost. When Jacobs eventually comes to Jamie for assistance, calling in an old debt in the process, Jamie finds that his past has dovetailed back on him and he cannot refuse the request. What occurs has the potential to be worse than he can ever imagine. He learns that there are certain things we shouldn’t know and choices, no matter how well-intended, that can go very wrong.

REVIVAL is fearfully and wonderfully dedicated to a number of old-school horror authors, and the reason for this becomes all too clear by the time one reaches the book’s finish line. While it takes King a while to set up the board, the second half of the story, particularly the last hundred pages, will stick with you long after you read the final paragraph. Those of a certain age (Jamie’s and above) will find King’s take on what lies on the near horizon especially unsettling and disturbing. To those folks, I would say this: read it anyway. It’s better to see the bullet coming before you hear it.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 13, 2014

by Stephen King

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • ISBN-10: 1476770395
  • ISBN-13: 9781476770390