Revival: Book Review


Colin Bunn, Online Editor

A distilled sense of dread is what horror master Stephen King is known for in his novels. He weaves a narrative that sneaks into the reader’s mind and chills them to the core. King proved in his newer book Revival, that the old master still has his touch.

In an epic story stretching over six decades, King follows Jamie Morten, a boy from small-town Harlow Maine. It is Morten’s direct account of his life long experiences with his childhood priest, Charles Jacobs. Jacobs, a brilliant man, is a genius when it comes to electricity.

His love of electricity and a horrific accident are the catalysts for the Rev’s descent into madness and forces he does not understand. Jamie details the life of both himself and Jacobs as they bump into each other many times over the years. This longer, more drawn out narrative, allows King to develop Jamie Morten into a fully realized character. He is not the perfect person, not by a long shot, but his flaws are why I found him so relatable. It’s why you fear for him and everybody he loves.

The story has a tangible tension as the narrative feels like a freight train rocketing toward a dark conclusion. Dread is the first word that comes to mind. King’s juxtaposition of the main character Jamie and the mad scientist Charles is what makes this book. Whenever the two share a page the narrative comes to life. Each interaction increases the tension and accelerates the novel to an eventual breakneck pace.

At the center of this tale is a singular question: what is Charles doing with his electricity? It keeps the pages turning and the characters on edge. While the ending might rub viewers the wrong way, I believe that King is following in a long tradition of Lovecraftian horror. With all the lightning in Revival, a reader might expect a flashy ending but remove those expectations. While the fantastical is present in Revival, it is muted through the experience and not the point of the book. King’s messages of death, loss, and trauma are far more important to the experience.

During Jamie’s high school years the book drags a little bit. Sequences with Jamie’s high school sweetheart, while a likable character, doesn’t contribute much to the narrative until later in the book. It felt that King had to add an extra fifty pages in order to set up later events. I found myself wishing Jamie’s girlfriend and his sister, Claire, were merged into a singular character as both felt underdeveloped or pointless at times.

As mentioned, my only real gripe with the book is that the pacing feels off at times. An Editor’s eye is needed in certain places. Maybe it is King’s pedigree or a refusal to cut loved characters, but there are empty calories left in the pages of this book.

This dragging pace is quickly thrown off when Charles Jacobs is reintroduced into the narrative. From midway through the book on, Revival returns to old Stephen King form. Not the heights he reached in his prime, but still brilliant.

If you’re a fan of Stephen King, Lovecraftian horror, or creepy science fiction, then Revival is worth a read. The characters are top notch, as are most Stephen King characters, and the narrative is compelling even in the slowest chapters. Everything is present in this book. Haunting imagery, a twisting mystery, wonderfully dark prose and ideas that are full of literary merit.

Overall, Revival is an 8/10 for me. It falls just short of being a great book or an all time classic but it is definitly in the upper echelons of modern horror books.