Stephen King, Revival – Slow mounting tension and a striking finale
When I think of Charles Jacob -my fifth business, my change agent, my nemesis-I can’t bear to believe his presence in my life had anything to do with fate. It would mean that all these terrible things-these horrors-were meant to happen.
Jamie Morton is six when he meets Reverend Charles Jacob for the first time. He is a kid living happily amongst three brothers and a sister. The Reverend is a kind young man, married with a small kid. He has a passion for electricity and builds devices for the children of the parish, until he uses his skill on a more miraculous trick, involving Jamie’s brother Conrad. Everything goes well in the best of worlds, until tragedy strikes, followed by the “terrible sermon”, which costs the reverend his job.
Jamie and Charles Jacob will meet only a couple more times, but each time these encounters will define the path Jamie’s life will take: once in 1992, after Jamie, who became a guitar player and a junkie, is expelled from the band and sick, once in 2008, when Charles Jacobs has acquired some fame thanks to unusual skills, and a final time in 2013, for a striking finale.
Revival has been announced by King on Twitter as “a straight-ahead horror novel”, and it is that. But Revival is also unusual in the sense that the suspense and the horror build very slowly, creeping up by small degrees until the mind-blowing finale. For a while, we even comfort ourselves that this is a smooth ride and that the baddie is not that bad and that King is mellowing with age. But rest assured: the impression of confort is fake and the rug will be swept from under your feet, eventually…
It seems that many readers rate Revival as King’s return to form, but I don’t think that he has ever been out of form, but like all writers, he has is ups and downs (his downs being better than most author’s ups): in recent years, I loved Duma Key, found Doctor Sleep starting strongly but ending weakly, was moderately enthusiastic about 22/11/63 and disappointed by the ending of The Dome. Revival, though, does not let down, it goes crescendo and builds characterization slowly, dropping forebodings along the way without allowing us to see exactly where we are led, which is towards a conclusion that the reader won’t forget anytime soon. The influence of the masters (Shelley, Lovecraft, Bradbury) is felt throughout. Don’t miss this one!