December 12, 2014

Review: Revival

Revival by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Revival was a pretty good return to form for Stephen King, nearly as enjoyable as Under the Dome and 11/22/63, and significantly better than Doctor Sleep.

The main character, Jamie Morton, is a sweet, cool kid, and a relatable adult. I followed his believable progression through his life, and was interested in his music career, drug problems, and family life. Sometimes he steps a bit into references that may not have come naturally to him without a college degree or a lifelong interest in literature, but he's likable throughout, and had a voice that worked to keep us involved in the story.

The man whose shadow he lives under, Reverend Charles Jacobs, also has a fascinating progression through the book, into twisted mad scientist villainy. His electrical obsessions blended with his religious faith, lack thereof, perversion of belief, and manipulation of fervor for personal gain were all quite well tackled, and all sustained my interest. The electricity and religion dovetailed surprisingly well, with hints of many Gothic references such as Franz Kafka and Mary Shelley. Jacobs was a terrific catalyst at each new plot point, and always understandable in his motivations.

The Morton family was also warmly rendered, with my biggest emotional connections coming from Jamie's interactions with his siblings. The family material really helps ground Jamie as a character, and give him a three-dimensional, believable world.

Less successful, I felt, were the women in the story. Jamie's girlfriend, sister, and Jacobs's wife all suffered from a lack of specific distinction; some sort of spark of individualization was missing from each. Jamie's mother comes off a little more precisely, but even she could have used more of the complexity King gives his men here.

The storytelling edges into masterful on occasion, with King withholding just enough information to tease and tantalize, and giving himself plenty of room to breathe life into his scenarios. The prose is clean and direct, as usual, unshowy but still powerful with strong visualizations. It's no news to say King is a terrific storyteller, but his gifts are on full display here, and I gulped this book down.

The revelations at the end, unfortunately, strain credulity, and are at best bleak. They felt somewhat unsatisfying in their darkness, although they don't negate the enjoyments of the rest of Revival.

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