Stephen King’s second novel of the year, Revival, is much more typical of his usual style than the recent thriller, Mr Mercedes. This one is firmly ensconced within the horror genre – it’s big reveal towards the end is truly horrifying and thought-provoking. But much of what comes beforehand is commonplace and everyday. While this makes the juxtaposition between what we think is real, and the reality of the grim other world that King’s work gives readers a glimpse into, it does mean that much of the narrative lacks drama and suspense – despite his solid attempts otherwise.
Revival is the story of Jamie Morton, a boy who later becomes a guitarist and drug addict. In his early life he meets Reverend Charles Jacobs, whose life and faith are thrown into disarray by the death of his wife and son. Jamie has many fond memories of Jacobs from this time, including how his passion for the potentials of electricity helped his older brother regain his voice after an accident. Many years later, Jamie encounters Jacobs again in a travelling sideshow where he is using electrical energy to swindle onlookers. While Jamie does not approve of this, he allows Jacobs to use electrical current to attempt to cure him of his drug addiction. While this is successful, Jamie soon gets the sense that something has happened to him – but he is not quite sure what. He does find that he has prophetic dreams at times, ones that connect him to the world of the dead.
Jamie moves on with his life, but the two characters appear to be in a common orbit, and he soon encounters Jacobs again, this time as a travelling faith healer. Jacobs does appear to be healing many people with the power of electricity, but research shows that many of them have dramatic changes of personality at some point in the future – with violent episodes resulting. Jamie tries to present this information to Jacobs, who is hell bent on continuing his experimentation. Later we learn this is an attempt to look into the world of the dead. (I think I can say this without giving away too much. It was easy to infer.)
King himself shudders at the glimpse this novel offers into the other world – and so he should. This is the more inspired of the two novels he has produced this year – although Mr Mercedes offers the better reading experience. I’d be keen to hear a comparison from others who have read both.