Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 480
Published: November 11th 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Horror, Thriller
In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs – including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties – an addict, stranded, desperate – Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.
This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. – from Goodreads
Before reading Revival I read many reviews which were all spoiler free, so I will try to avoid major spoilers here. If, on the other hand you’re not opposed to spoilers (I confess I half-wanted to find some, just to know just how scary this book was going to get), or you’ve already read the book, then you may like the companion piece I’ve written, On Reading… Revival which will be up on the blog in a few days, about my reading experience. It’s something new I’m trying out.
Anyway, onto my thoughts about Revival.
Stephen King is a brilliant storyteller, and this books demonstrates that yet again. He creates characters so well. The first time we meet Jamie Morton he’s a youngster, and we follow him briefly through key points of those childhood years, during which he meets Charles Jacobs, a young reverend with a small family of his own.
This period was so well written I could have stayed there forever. It’s one book that I actually wished was longer, because the community and the characters were so real.
Alas, tragedy and resulting loss of faith send both Jamie and the man he refers to as his fifth business, Charles Jacobs, off into darker waters of obsession and addiction.
It’s a gripping read as Jacobs’s family tragedy and the effects of his Terrible Sermon have far-reaching consequences over the following years. Witnessing Jacobs publicly question and ultimately lose his own faith, accompanied by a developing drug addiction in his older years leaves Jamie susceptible to whatever it is that Jacobs is trying to do, and that is the central mystery which drives the novel.
This mystery builds gradually, and Jamie and his old fifth business cross paths at various intervals, each time taking the narrative onwards to a dark conclusion – secret electricity, visual trickery, missing time, supposed miracle cures and bizarre after-effects all contribute to a growing sense of dread.
At first it all seems innocent enough, with Jacobs performing publicly at a fairground, but even then there’s a sense of unease at the feats of what seem like magic that he can create, and as Jamie witnesses some of this power himself he soon comes to realise that… Something Happened.
This unease only increases as the years pass and Jacobs’s achievements become ever more astounding. He suddenly gains a much wider audience as he restyles himself as an apparently successful healer, but Jamie, still unsure exactly what did happen when he accepted an offer of help from Jacobs, wants to find out more about the man whom he once considered a friend, and the power that lies behind his healing gifts.
Charlie Jacobs is an interesting character because he’s not a black and white villain; he’s a family man dealt a terrible blow which leads him down a path he probably never anticipated in the first place as he searches for answers.
The tension builds as it’s clear Jacobs doesn’t really know what he’s creating in pursuit of his ultimate goal (which is revealed in the latter stages of the story), and the side effects experienced by those he has treated with apparent success present themselves in a variety of unpleasant ways.
Undeterred, his obsessions drive him onwards, utterly changing him from the mild-mannered family man and man of faith who first walks into Jamie’s life when he is just a child, into a single-minded, driven man who will stop at nothing and use any means necessary to achieve his aims.
Jamie and Charles seem bound by something beyond either of their understanding, and it makes for a tense read which for me was a complete page-turner. I had a real dilemma of needing to find the answers and wanting to draw out my reading of this book.
I won’t spoil the ending, so I’ll just say that yes, it was pretty scary. If Jacobs had realised what his obsessions would eventually reveal I doubt he would have dedicated a lifetime to pursuing them so intently.