Revival, by Stephen King — a book review


Concerning Stephen King . . .

Up until about 1992, I read everything he wrote. Then, he continued to write, seemingly faster than I could read. I estimate that I’ve missed fifteen of his novels, unless he’s published another one in the past few minutes, which is always a possibility.

Oh, I’ve read some of his novels since ’92. I read Insomnia (and regretted it), Rose Madder (the same reaction), The Green Mile (which I liked, over all), The Regulators (which I didn’t), all of the Dark Tower books (although this was an uneven ride at times), Bag of Bones (not great), Dreamcatcher (a piece of shit), The Colorado Kid (I loved it), Cell (I liked it somewhat), Under the Dome (it was mostly okay), 11/22/63 (I abandoned it about two-thirds of the way through it), Doctor Sleep (meh), and now Revival.

Suffice it to say that I like King’s earlier works much more than his later ones.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like Stephen King. The man is an uncommonly gifted writer. He can write almost anything, fiction or non-fiction, and I will read it. He has a way with words. If you know what I mean, then you know what I mean. King is a gifted individual. But, his is not a gift from God, because he is apparently an atheist. I don’t have a problem with his religious beliefs (or lack thereof), but I do feel like they certainly influence the conclusion of this novel.

I’ve read reviews that tout this book as having the scariest ending of a Stephen King novel to date. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. It is, however, the bleakest conclusion to a Stephen King novel that I’ve read. I’m about to SPOIL it for you in just a few moments, so stop reading now if you’re sensitive to such things.

Here’s the ending to Revival. The main character, the POV character in fact, Jamie Lawton, learns that there is no Heaven in the Afterlife. Instead, you are doomed to spend eternity as slaves to a race of Ant-like overlords.

Yep. That’s it.

If that’s what passes for scary these days, then bring on the antidepressants, another sign of the times.

I’m not an atheist, but I have some of the same doubts everyone experiences from time to time. Maybe there’s nothing after this life, which I still believe is more likely than ant overlords. Maybe there’s something. Living this one life we know we’re given as if there may be nothing else isn’t the worst thing in the world to do. Worst case scenario, unless you are a pederast or serial killer, you’ll just maximize your enjoyment during the sum total of the days that you’re alive without causing harm to others. Not a bad way to spend your life.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the novel.

Over all, it’s well-written, as all things King tend to be. The character development is laudable. I felt I understood Jamie Lawton and, to an extent, the Rev. Charles Jacobs. I empathized with these characters, and shared both their victories and tragedies early on in the novel.

At some point, with all the talk of “secret electricity,” I intuited that I was reading the origin story of Victor Frankenstein. King himself dropped clues in the story that this was so. He mentioned characters named Shelley (like Mary Shelley) and Victor. Aha, I exclaimed, like a two-dimensional character in a second-rate paperback novel. What I was wholly unaware of was that the ending was influenced heavily by the novella “The Great God Pan” by Welsh author Arthur Machen, first published in 1890.

I’ve read this novella and wasn’t similarly inspired. I’m not a genius. A statement which probably comes as no surprise to most of you.

I get it. The ending of Revival is very much a Lovecraftian, otherworldly type of ending. It hints at Elder Gods and worlds beyond our own. King has dabbled in such things before, perhaps never with the same sense of despair.

I didn’t hate this book. But, I didn’t love it either. I’d say that I was firmly somewhere in the middle on this one. I definitely do not recommend it to you if you’ve ever placed the barrel of a gun in your mouth, just for kicks, or fitted a noose made from pantyhose or blue jean legs around your neck. This is not a feel good book.

I give it a solid B-minus.


5 thoughts on “Revival, by Stephen King — a book review

  1. “Insomnia” was the book through which I fell out of love with Stephen King, sadly, and since then none of the (very few) books he wrote have managed to catch my undivided attention like his earlier ones. Probably the terrible accident that almost cost him his life took something precious from him, something that somehow killed the bright spark that had ignited his works until then…. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. B minus is fair. I’m on an Audible retrospective of king right now. I listened to revival last year and thought the early part of the story was good, but then it started to get dull, full of the tropes that has made his last 20 years a slog for me. Too much unneccessary information, and his odd need for the protagonist to have a much younger girlfriend (who, in this case, was Ms. Exposition). All in all, it was decent, but the giant ant-like overlords are just another sign that King will probably never move past his pulp horror roots. Nice review!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.