Sunday, April 5, 2015

King's "Revival": The Secret of Electricity?

I’m a longtime fan of Stephen King, and I always enjoy digging into a new work by the man who’s given fans a lot of memorable reading experiences over the years. His latest novel, Revival, follows several well-received recent works including the Kennedy assassination centered time travel opus, 11/22/63, the elegiac ghost story Joyland and a mystery/detective thriller, Mr. Mercedes. His new book, Revival, brings us King in classic horror mode, in a tale of faith, rock & roll, religion, & one man’s obsession to see what’s on the other side of death. The story opens in the early 60s, where we are introduced to young Jamie Morton and his family, who live in a small Maine town. They meet their new pastor, Charles Jacobs, along with his wife & young son. Jamie & the rest of the town are impressed & won over by the preacher & his family, and their kindness. Everyone loves them, and they have a positive effect on the community.

Jamie is initially dazzled by Jacobs’ interest in electricity & how it can be used as more than just a power source. When the pastor heals an injury suffered by Jamie’s brother using a strange method, he’s amazed. But tragedy is just around the corner; the pastor suffers a devastating loss, which turns him against his faith. He gives a sermon (later known as the “Terrible Sermon”) in church that rages against God; it’s so negative and anti-religion that he loses his job, and leaves town. Charles & Jamie will continue to meet over the years, and their fates are more intertwined than Jamie suspects. As Jamie grows older, he starts playing guitar in rock bands & travelling the country. He also becomes addicted to heroin, and his life is falling apart. In essence, he's crashing out.

When Jacobs & Jamie meet again, the former pastor is performing in a carnival, mystifying audiences with tricks & illusions using electricity. He tells Jamie he can help him with his drug problem by using the things he’s learned about the power of electrical current and its properties. He does successfully cure Jamie of his addiction, and Jamie becomes his assistant for a time, working with Jacobs in his act. But Jacobs' cure has some unexpected side effects. The two part ways again. However, it wont be the last time their paths cross. Jacobs becomes a faith healer, curing people of terminal illnesses and devastating diseases. Jamie follows his progress on the internet, but stays away from him.

There’s a darker element at work in Jacob’s uses of what he calls “the secret electricity.” Many of the people he heals are suffering even more terrible side effects than Jamie did. And what is Jacob’s ultimate goal? When fate brings them together again, Jamie realizes Jacobs may be fooling with forces he really doesn’t understand. The former preacher is trying to open a door that should never be opened, into a world man was never meant to see. He needs Jamie to do this, and isn't above using his weaknesses against him. If Jacobs succeeds, there may be devastating consequences. It's up to Jamie to stop Jacobs before he unleashes a terrible evil on the world. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot so you can enjoy its surprises, and if you’re a fan of the Cthulhu mythos, then the chilling finale will really resonate with you.

King's storytelling skill makes you care about the people in the novel and what happens to them. There’s memorable dialogue and some truly scary scenes, and the author's usual mentions of music & pop culture are sprinkled throughout the novel, which help it feel even more relatable. Some of the supporting characters are a little thinly sketched, and a couple of secondary plot points aren’t fully fleshed out, but that’s a minor weakness. This is really a two-character story, and Jamie & his mentor/nemesis Charles Jacobs are memorable, multi-faceted men. This is King at his creepy best; the novel has allusions to the works of Mary Shelley, Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft, and has an eerie atmosphere. If you’re a horror fan, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. It’s a fun read. Revival is now available online & in stores.

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