REVIVAL by Stephen King


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Jan 5, 2001
Way on Down South, London Town
REVIVAL by Stephen King

I’ve had a Stephen King-fest in the last year – The Stand, Carrie, Billy Summers, Mr Mercedes, and Fairy Tale – I have Misery, Duma Key and The Green Mile ready to go. One clever thing is how the titles of some of his books seem to work on many different levels. Misery is one, this is definitely true of Revival. While I have never read a bad book by him, some that I have recently read many may have been his less good. I do think that Revival falls into that category.

Towards the end of this book, I was really waiting for the punchline to come, and wondering what it was going to be. The characters had all become so old, many were already dead, others were dying. I did enjoy the life-story of Jamie Morton, intertwined with that of the ex-minister showman, Charles Daniel Jacobs, but the coincidences became increasingly unbelievable, and when I went to read some reviews of the book, it seems that I was not the only one who felts this way.

It is one of his writing idiosyncrasies, but the way he always has the storyteller tell you what will happen, and then writes it happening, I am not keen about that. That is just me, but it takes me back to English lessons at school, when the whole class had to read the same book, but someone in class would always tell you what was going to happen next before I had managed to finish the next chapter.

There are obvious and deliberate references and influences from H P Lovecraft and Mary Shelly. It has themes of religious faith, the need people have to believe in something, of life and death, aging, addiction, aspiration, morality, conflict, redemption, and forgiveness - the human condition. It was going to be a film but that was abandoned for being too expensive.

The Mary Fay character was introduced very late, and that introduction seemed odd. I think she was originally meant to have been Astrid, but neither Jamie nor the nurse would have taken part. The nurse flees anyway, and I don’t understand why Jamie remains.

There is never an explanation of the difference between “secret” electricity and the usual kind, or a good reason (to me) why Jamie isn’t among the list of suicides. Except that the story needs it to be that way.

A "shaggy dog story" was one reviewer’s quote, and that it could really have been a much better short story. I must agree with both those views because after all the slow build-up to the final experiment, we learnt very little about Limbo or "The Null" (some dimension of Chaos) or wherever it was behind the small door with a keyhole covered in ivy – a desolate place, full of tormented souls, ruled by giant black ants, and where “Mother” has a claw made of human faces - and that was it. An earlier King book would have been half the number of pages, a later book would have given us another three pages of description of were Mary Fay had been.

To find in the final pages that he is in Hawaii watching after his brother Con, while concerned about his own death, is hardly much of a shock.
I thought Fairy Tale was better actually, though in both I enjoyed the small town family stories at the start, rather than the fantasy or fantastical elements that came later. You've said Fairy Tale was "preachy" before but I'm not sure what you mean by that exactly - I don't see what moral advice it was giving in a tedious way - I think it might have been saying that extending your life at the expense of having children wasn't a good thing - I think it might have made some statement about American colleges and the US education system - I didn't really see the 'other world' as being allegorical of anything in this world, but maybe you did and that's what you didn't like?

As for Revival, it was totally heretical - actually saying that a Christian minister was no more than a charlatan and a sideshow mountebank, and by association saying that all others were too. What was Charles preaching? That some kind of undefined secret electricity can cure what faith cannot? The book did say that heaven and hell were real though, so it was far more preachy (IMO) by saying that we must all answer for our immoral transgressions, or else suffer the consequences. At the end Jamie is just waiting to die and receive his own reckoning. I think it was partly those strong religious themes that put me off this book.
Interesting, this is the first negative reaction I’ve heard to Revival,
Seriously?? I've seen plenty. It only gets 3.8 here: Revival = Goodreads Many are very negative.

But have I been negative or just critical? It was certainly thought provoking. As I said, I've read many Stephen King books (and going to read more as I mentioned.) I've never read a bad book or story by him, but this isn't one of his best. It isn't even half as good as Misery, which I'm going to continue after writing this. Also, people have different tastes. I liked Fairy Tale better, but @Danny McG quite obviously doesn't.
But have I been negative or just critical
Hi Dave, sorry just seeing this now. I didn’t mean you were being a meany bucket, just that I’ve not heard anything critical about it from the channels I follow.

But I have to say I have set SK aside for quite a while now. I still love his style but there are so many other authors to read :)

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