With the release of a dark new novel last week, titled Revival, Stephen King added to the well over fifty novels he has already published. In his latest book, King delves into some deep matters, rightly earning the description “dark.” Much like some of his other landmark novels such as It and 11/22/63, the new tale spans the course of many decades, but it is distinct from many of his other novels in what it addresses and what it is about. Still, it remains a trademark Stephen King novel.
The fact that King released a dark new novel like Revival would surely not surprise anyone familiar with his work. It dwells on such weighty matters as the loss of loved ones, loss of faith, heavy substance abuse, aging and death. There is not so much of the supernatural or dark and mysterious forces at work in this novel as there have been in quite a few of his earlier works. Instead, King continues on the more everyday evils of man, much like he did in his earlier work published this year, Mr. Mercedes.
The main character who narrates the novel is Jamie Morton, a man readers follow from a normal childhood to the depths of substance abuse in a rock ‘n roll existence, before he has a “revival” of his own and settles into a calmer, more stable lifestyle. Some suggest that he is a stand-in for King himself, and there are indeed similarities, such as a childhood in Maine and the substance abuse issues.
The novel starts off with Jamie describing his childhood in the small town of Harlow, Maine, where he first meets Pastor Jacobs. The lives of Morton and Jacobs continue to intersect throughout the course of the book, until they become almost rivals to one another.
Charles Daniel Jacobs is the charismatic new pastor in Harlow during Morton’s childhood, and his impact and influence on Morton’s early life is clear. Initially, Jacobs seems to represent only positives, and seems to embody the youthful idealism of the sixties. Young and perhaps a bit naive, he is essentially an honest man with a good heart at the beginning of the novel. Yet, there is one peculiar thing about Pastor Jacobs: he seems to have an obsession with electricity, which he considers truly the biggest modern-day miracle, and laments how so many people seem to take it for granted. Pastor Jacobs certainly does not take it for granted, however, as he studies it and conducts various experiments. At first, his fascination with electricity seems small-scale, and his experiments with it relatively minor. He helps Jamie’s brother with a physical condition using electricity, but it still seems limited, and nobody is even sure just how much Pastor Jacob’s experimenting is actually responsible for curing his brother’s condition.
Jacobs is well-liked in Harlow, and everyone envies him and his ideal life. He has a beautiful wife, and a child who the whole town seems to find endearing. All of that changes following a horrific accident. Jacobs loses his faith and changes over time, seeming to grow more sinister as the book goes on, perhaps mirroring a growing cynicism in the society as a whole.
Morton runs into Jacobs as an adult while he is in serious trouble with substance abuse, and Jacobs actually helps Morton to overcome this. Still, while Morton feels grateful to Jacobs, a part of him also feels that he was, in effect, a guinea pig of sorts. Jacobs’ experiments may have started off on a small-scale, but these experiments with electricity grow exponentially in scale, and at one point, King describes him as a mad scientist of sorts. Before long, Morton feels compelled to take action when he feels that the reckless experiments with electricity by Jacobs are beginning to negatively impact far too many people.
Overall, this is a well-written novel by King, who is masterful in writing suspense, and this book is loaded with it. King’s release of this dark new novel, Revival, will likely make fans feel that it is a solid addition to any collection of his works, as it is strongly written. The Constant Readers, the name by which King refers to his loyal fans, will surely be happy, as this book really is also a pleasure to read. King always has a remarkably engaging style of writing that makes you feel like you are on a vacation from yourself while reading the book. In the early part of the novel, when the narrator is describing his own childhood, you almost feel like you are reliving your own childhood along with him. That is not easy to do, and it is a tribute to King and his writing abilities that he is able to do this and make it seem so effortless. Revival is engaging, and makes you want to turn the page and find out what happens next. As an aside for any King fans reading this, there is one indirect mention of a previous novel, a recent one, in his mention of the theme park Joyland, which happens to be the setting of a book by the same name that he released last year.
Review by Charles Bordeau
Photo by Stephanie Lawton – Flickr