Revival by Stephen King
Published: Scribner (Nov 11, 2014)
Posted: Goodreads (Jul 9, 2016)
(3.8 / 5)
Revival is a novel by Stephen King that I’ve tried to get into off and on since its release. While the page count isn’t high at 405 pages, the novel suffers from pacing issues that kept killing the experience for me in the past. Now that I’ve read it, I’ll break down the plot, structure, themes, and provide you with some opinions of it.
The story of Revival is told by a 60 year old Jamie Morton, a former rock musician-turned-engineer, as he recounts dreadful moments of his life. Jamie’s woes center around one elusive individual, his former small town Methodist Pastor, Charles Jacobs. From early on Jacobs renounces his faith and ditches town. Jamie’s story is told through a series of encounters with the charlatan Jacobs throughout the years.
There are parts of the novel that are really interesting. If you’re into the old HBO TV show Carnivale, you’ll be delighted to find Jacobs conniving his way through a carnival gig and performing some tricks along the way. He tries his hand at hosting evangelical revivals, too. Is Charles Jacobs conning his way through life or does he possess powers far beyond the limitations of science and medicine?
The themes of Revival are science fiction and horror. There’s some degree of suspense going on but, to be fair, the novel is predictable in many ways. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have suspenseful or creepy moments, but the novel isn’t as scary as his short stories such as 1408 or those in Bazaar of Bad Dreams. It is slightly depressing though. The suspenseful moments are in eager anticipation of the horror.
The delivery of Revival’s story is both a blessing and a curse. While it may have more depth than Doctor Sleep, DS managed to hold my interest longer. It was a tighter novel with a clear beginning and end.
Revival starts when Jamie is young. It highlights his time as a teen and then progresses to where he’s a drug addicted youth (not dissimilar from the star character of Doctor Sleep). It then continues to stop at various stages after he’s 50. My primary complaint should be obvious: while the story is structured in such a way as to give you Jamie’s entire life story, the timeline was too loose.
While we’re given a lot more information than we need (such as the various machinations of Jamie’s family and the families of his friends), those details do serve to strengthen Jamie’s character. His curiosity and willingness to debunk everything Jacobs does is central to the main story. But as strong as Jamie’s character is, he lacks any real passion or zeal throughout the novel.
While Jacobs’s crazy experiments involving the supernatural are really great (I’ll never think of an electrical “pop” the same way again), their widely lauded conclusion is merely few pages. Some people talk about the amazing horror revelations at the end, but they aren’t as disturbing as their mysterious breadcrumbs throughout the novel. Not to mention the novel doesn’t end after said resolutions, it somehow meanders into pages of details that serve little purpose.
Despite me giving 4/5 rating on Goodreads, I truly believe the novel to be a 3.5 or 3.8 (4 would be closer than 3 since we can’t give fractions of a star). The narrative structure is the problem. The time that was spent on endless details about the family, love interests, and the record biz could easily have been given to developing the story’s “revelations” instead.
All negativity aside, I do think Revival is a great read. The story is great and the character of Jamie Morton is well thought out and interesting. Great SK Read. Enjoy!