King, Stephen: Revival (2014)

I know…I know. I promised not to read another Stephen King novel for a while after reviewing Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers. Well…I broke that promise. Sorry. I became curious after reading the compelling argument my dear friend and reader Ann-Kathrin made about Stephen King’s mystery novels being way better than his attempts at crime fiction. So instead of avoiding King altogether, I picked up Revival, Kings latest mystery novel.

At first, this didn’t seem like such an awful idea. The book started out interesting enough, telling the story of Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobs. Jamie first meets Charles Jacobs when he is six years old and Jacobs moves into his home town to become the new pastor of the local Methodist church. Jacobs is forced to leave the congregation after his wife and son die in a horrible car accident and he preaches what will be referred to as the ‘Terrible Sermon’ throughout the rest of the novel. Disappointed in God and disillusioned about his formerly strong faith, Jacobs preaches about his difficulties to continue believing in an afterlife that will explain and justify the ills of this world:

If our faith is strong, we’ll go to heaven, and we’ll understand the whole thing when we get there. As if life were a joke, and heaven the place where the cosmic punchline is finally explained to us.

Even though Jamie Morton doesn’t see Jacobs for years after this incident, he never forgets the ‘Terrible Sermon’.

Jamie’s and Jacobs’ lives do not intersect for several years afterwards until Jamie has become a successful musician as well as a heroin addict, and Jacobs performs magic tricks at fairs using what he calls ‘secret electricity’, all the while experimenting and exploring the powers of his discovery further.

From this point onwards Jamie and Jacobs stay in regular contact and Jamie becomes increasingly concerned about Jacobs’ scientific endeavour, which he pursues in secret.

After years of experimentation, Jacobs becomes a healer and calls himself Pastor Danny*. However, at this point Jacobs is still not even close to starting his ultimate experiment. Dumdumdumduuuum! *Insert ominous music here*

* Jamie mentions that this part of his story can easily be verified by a simple Google search. I couldn’t resist and – lo and behold: Pastor Danny Davies – you can actually find him with a simple Google search. Well played Mr. King!

As I said, I enjoyed reading this novel. The characters were interesting and well written, the story advanced slowly, but without ever coming to a complete stand still, and King’s suspenseful writing kept me interested.

Now on to the things I didn’t like about Revival: First of, this wasn’t exactly a page turner for me. While I never considered abandoning the book completely, I did go for days without feeling any desire to find out what happens next. Overall it took me almost two weeks to finish a 373 page novel. For comparison: it took me about that long to finish both Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers, two novels that I didn’t really enjoy reading and that presented me with a combined total of almost 900 pages.

I think the reason why it took me so long to finish reading Revival is that even more than three quarters into the book I felt like I was still reading exposition – the back story I needed to be aware of to understand the ultimate twist.

Something happened.

Jamie starts repeating this line about half way through the novel. Something happened. This led me to the assumption that at some point something will actually happen. From this point onwards the story became very suspenseful…

…Oh the suspense! 

No, really, after this set up, something BIG was going to happen. I was sure of it.

That’s a lie. I wasn’t entirely sure of it. I sincerely hoped that something was going to happen. Something mind blowing, earth shattering. I really liked the novel so far and I was going to publish a raving review about it.

About how King’s mystery novels are indeed so much better than his crime fiction. About the way he builds suspense up to a riveting climax. It would have been a very cautious review. One that doesn’t give too much away – because I would’ve urged everyone of my readers to read the book and find out for themselves what I’m on about.

Was going to. Would have been. Would have. If.

If the excruciating suspense had actually led somewhere. If I had been surprised at the end – maybe even shocked. If after all that foreplay I had wanted to keep reading once it was finally revealed what the big climax was going to be. If.

Mind you, I did read the whole novel. But my world wouldn’t have come to an end had my kindle bust into flames while I was reading the last ten to twenty pages. That’s another lie. My world would’ve ended a little. But not because I wouldn’t have been able to finish the novel – I just really love my kindle.

In the end, my first guess about a possible ending turned out to be exactly what happens. Well not exactly maybe, but very close. Unfortunately, the ending worked better in my imagination than it did in the novel itself – although I did think  that it would be rather lame as a resolution for the novel even as the idea first crossed my mind. King tried to describe something that was supposed to instil fear and horror into the reader. At least I assume that this was his plan. It didn’t work in the end, so I can’t be entirely sure that that’s what he set out to do in the first place.

Curiosity is a terrible thing, but it’s human. So human.

Very well put, Mr. King. I wish you had ultimately satisfied mine after igniting it for well over 300 pages.

Have you read Revival? What did you think? 


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