Review: Revival by Stephen King

Revival SKWhen Reverend Jacobs enters Jamie Morton’s life, he is merely a boy, playing in the dirt with toy soldiers: an innocent soul, his path undecided, until the reverend steps into view, casting a long, dark shadow over the boy; one that will last a lifetime. There’s an immediate affection between the two, and despite Jacobs’ fascination (bordering on infatuation) with electricity, which he uses to awe members of his youthful congregation, and demonstrate the unparalleled power of God, the reverend is a breath of fresh air in the small New England town. He, his wife, and their small child, are immediately welcomed. Vivacity is exactly what the parishioners of the town need.

Then there’s an accident.

It is brutal, sudden, and unforgiving. And it breaks Jacobs’ spirit. It eviscerates his faith. Soon afterwards, he leaves the town with nothing but a deep-rooted maniacal obsession with electricity. Jamie doesn’t expect to see the reverend again: his own life takes unexpected turns of its own in the form of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a bleak path with an inevitable outcome, and Jamie is cruising towards it without struggle. At this stage he can’t put up much of a fight. But who re-enters Jamie’s life, just when it seems he’s reached the abyss? Jacobs, of course; whose experiments with electricity have become increasingly brazen. He’s building towards something – the question is, what? And why is Jamie’s fate entwined with Jacobs’? More importantly, how does he escape its clutches?

Revival is less terrifying than the benchmarks of Stephen King’s prolific career, but will be remembered as one of his most haunting works. It is a slow-burn, compelling psychological horror novel, infused with a tension that ratchets up to the nth degree towards its final pages. In this instance, ‘revival’ encompasses both religious awakenings and bringing the dead back to life. King plays with how religious faith can be manipulated for nefarious purposes, and the intrinsic unrequited nature of it, then explores the Frankenstein-esque notion of restoration through electricity with equal vigour. Essentially, after occasional lapses in recent years (Hello, Under the Done) with his novel’s climaxes, King nails the ending. Its final sentence is truly chilling.

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