Monday, December 29, 2014

King's new novel: Firmly in the middle of the pack


By Stephen King

Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition 

Pub. Date: November 11, 2014

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I sometimes get the feeling that Stephen King, in his relatively old age, is looking for the Big Picture. Gone are the the days where the scare was everything, if that time even existed for King. In many ways, King is looking for relevancy in his newer works more than he may have had before. I really got that feeling with 11/22/63, a reflective opus that looks at where we have been, what we lost, and the futility of finding it again. His new work, Revival has a similar feel to it. The novel centers around Jamie Morton as he grows up, makes mistakes, and revives a perilous relationship with his church's pastor. Charles Daniel Jacobs is a charismatic minister but when his wife and child dies in a car accident, he delivers a devastating sermon that results in his removal as pastor and from the town. Jacobs has an obsession with electricity, particularly something he calls "secret electricity". Jamie grows up, becomes a musician and struggles with his own demons in the shadow of lost family and drug addiction. He meets up with Jacobs later in life and the ex-reverend is now heading a revival type healing tour with people who claims to have been healed. Jacobs also heals Jamie but he can't get over a single thought. "I've lost something".

King's new novel fits firmly in the mid-ground of his writings. He has a mission and he stays with it as it develops slowly. A little too slowly for this reader. There are very few shocking ad scary moments until you get to the end. But the ending makes up for all that lull. This may be one of the best endings in any King novel. Yet I didn't think the rest of the book was worthy of it. Jamie felt a little too formula; good kid strays, comes back, explores the mystery of his ex-mentor, etc. I didn't get a good round view of his character. Jacobs fares a little bit better but rarely going beyond the mad scientist stereotype. Yet like all good King works, it manages to gel together at the end. It's good but not great. I didn't get the sense of urgency that I felt in 11/22/63 nor the dread of death and the unknown that I felt in Pet Sematary which explores some of these themes in a more terrifying way. Overall, it is an above average novel by an author whose work I expect to go over the bar by miles. I do recommend Revival but there are many books by King I would recommend first.

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