Saturday, January 03, 2015

"Revival" by Stephen King


There are different types of Stephen King fans out there. I am of the fandom that enjoys any word that man puts down on the page (minus his baseball writings -- sports bore me).

After I read a novel, I log into the Amazon-owned Goodreads website to see how others felt about it. Obviously, I disregard any person that disagrees with my point of view and wish them ill. Those that feel the same way about the book, to those I say, "Totally, right?"  The haters must hate with me and the lovers must love with me.

I'm really opinionated about weird things. I won't stick my neck out there in the political world and tell you how I feel, but if I hate a commercial, you shall know, and you may even feel violated by my forceful opinion about it and tell me to stop over-reacting.

When I read the reviews of the haters that aren't supposed to hate, I get peeved at the people who complain about how King has lost his touch. That his "old stuff" is so much better. That he's just not scary anymore -- which makes me wonder...when was he ever scary? No offense to King, but as much as I love his writing, and it can be thrilling at times, it nary ever scares me.

Nightmares? Please. If I want nightmares, I watch Brian Williams at 6:30 p.m. on NBC.

Those people obviously missed "Lisey's Story" and "11/22/63." Those books are not scary, but lyrical and strange and tall glasses of literary water that quench. Go after those, my friends. Find them. Read them.

I don't scare easy, I suppose. I've been reading the horror genre for eons...so I must be immune to all of its nasties by now, which was the last 100 pages of "Revival." The website and the inside flap of King's latest yarn told me that it "spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion King has ever written."

WOAH, inside-flap writers. Woah. Don't EVER do that. Don't. Please never set up a book like that. I read that in trepidation, knowing that I shouldn't hold that close to my heart in lieu of being disappointed.

Let me tell you what"Revival" is: King at his most recent comfort level. I'm not saying that it was subpar, and the writing was just OK. It was well-written, a good read, and I could even see myself picking it up for a second go-round, but it visits some places King has been lately with some of his most recent stories the past decade.

It touches on the addiction that's featured in last year's "Doctor Sleep." It's dark, especially that bleak ending, and he was definitely down that road in his novella collection of "Full Dark, No Stars." The last 100-pages of strange that finally shows its face in "Duma Key." The ending is big-fun, similar to the crazy he wrote at the end of "Under the Dome."

What's new, at least, for me, was his ability to write about one character (Jamie Morton, main character) through five decades in just 403 pages. That pacing is what makes this one a quick read.

We are introduced to Jamie Morton as a small child, first meeting the new pastor of his country church Charles Jacobs. After reading the inside flap about Charles Jacobs, and how he's the yin to Morton's yang, I kept looking for the terrible in Morton. I wanted him to be evil from the very beginning.

"He's going to be an evil pastor!"

Because, thanks to the inside flap, that's what I was looking for.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Charles Jacobs, throughout the book, isn't evil, and I finally disregarded the flap -- whoever wrote that did King a huge disservice. Charles Jacobs' road to hell is paved with good intentions, intentions that Jamie Morton gets tied up in, and that's where their yin and yang unite.

Jacobs shows Morton his fascination with electricity, and uses that fascination to aid in his Bible-teachings and his sermons. Sure, it begins to wear on the kids and the church members, but Jacobs is true in his belief and his presence. He really is a good man. Its when he loses his wife and child, during the first decade of the book, when Jacobs falters and starts to lose his way.

We don't hear from Jacobs for a couple of decades, and so we travel with Morton as he grows up in his country town, learns to play guitar, falls in love for the first time, and then moves on from college to become a bass/guitar player in numerous bands.

As a musician, especially during the 80's and 90's, we learn that Morton struggles with addiction, and that's when Jacobs' life t-bones with Morton's. Ever after, their lives are forever threaded together. They both become obsessed with each other, and the rest of the novel showcases that obsession.

I got obsessed, too. Jacobs continues his studies and experiments with electricity, Morton begins to research him, and Morton's curiosity becomes the reader's curiosity, and we both want to find out what Jacobs has been up to with all his crazy electricity, and why it's so important to him.

In the beginning of the novel, King thanks authors for building his house: Shelley, Stroker, Lovecraft, among others. Margaret Atwood compares "Revival" to Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville. Those influences show up in a big way at the end of the novel when Jacobs and Morton are in each others lives for one final time, and it all takes place in a palatial inn during a fervent lightning storm that is so Gothic.

It was like King was writing a thank you letter to those that came before him, while giving his current congregation a lesson in where he came from -- even if those current readers never visit the aforementioned authors.