by Stephen King
“I pulled out a single sheet of paper wrapped around a smaller envelope. Written on the face of this second envelope was Read my letter before opening this one. So I did.
Got help me, so I did.”
Revival opens with a young boy, Jamie, meeting the new local preacher, Charles, as Jamie plays with toy soldiers on a mound of dirt. The preacher’s shadow falls ominously across the boy, who will refer to this moment repeatedly for the rest of his life. Charles settles into life as the new minister and his fascination with electricity becomes known to Jamie, who witnesses his brother cured from a nasty affliction by a special form of the energy in the preacher’s employ. Tragedy strikes Charles’ family, shaking his faith and resulting in the Terrible Sermon that gets him fired and he leaves town. Jamie is not to see him again until decades later, himself a semi-successful musician at the end of his ropes and addicted to heroin. Charlie addresses Jamie’s addiction with his mysterious electricity, and Jamie becomes tied to Charles, no longer a minister but a circus sideshow selling his healing electricity to the seriously ill. But side effects are cropping up as Jamie looks into the real force behind the supposed power.
The book moves at a breakneck pace for the first half, slows a bit, then culminates in a vivid ending that seems to be causing a stir but doesn’t feel inappropriate or pushing things too far. This is good solid horror and nothing to be wary of.
Mr. King is a special case for me. The first book of his I read was The Eyes of the Dragon, the only King book my school library carried. Wanting more, the town library carried Skeleton Crew, which I checked out and was immediately forbidden to read anything from the author by my parents. This forced me into the Crime and Fantasy fields, and it was years later before I came back to the author with Pet Sematary, and I don’t recall if I had to sneak it, if the ban was lifted, or if I no longer cared about the rules but I went on to read dozens of his novels immediately afterward. When all schooling was over and life changed, my reading took a nosedive compared to early years.
Probably 15 years later I was scared to read any King novel. Not because of frightening content but because I didn’t want to see my hero fail to live up to the image I’d maintained of him since my youth. Feeling this way for years, I finally picked up Under the Dome and realized my fears weren’t justified; the guy is as brilliant, enrapturing and terrifying as ever. Revival reaffirms this by lashing you to the characters, mainly Jamie, and rocketing you through another King horror novel that’s never what you expect–it’s pretty much always better.
Don’t be afraid. Not too afraid.