“Revival” by Stephen King (Scribner, 416 pages, $30)
Remember when Stephen King announced that he was retiring? That was more than a decade and at least six books ago, and he’s done nothing but crank out best-sellers ever since.
The latest novel – likely to be No. 1 – is appropriately titled “Revival,” for it marks a return to true horror for the modern master of the genre. There are no soul-sucking vampires as in “Doctor Sleep,” or speculative historical fiction about the assassination of John F. Kennedy as in “11/22/63.”
“Revival” spans half a century, but at its heart are a young boy – Jamie Morton – and a New England pastor named the Rev. Charles Jacobs who captivates him from the moment they meet in 1962.
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The plot is set in motion when the good reverend starts to heal the sick using something he calls an “Electrical Nerve Stimulator.” Over the years, as he ducks in and out of narrator Jamie’s life, he learns how to harness electricity to a greater and greater degree until he’s literally ready to revive the dead.
It’s no fun spoiling all the scares, but here’s a phrase – spoken by Jacobs to Jamie early in the novel – that neatly sums it up: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And lit with electric lights.”
King fans won’t find anything to complain about here. At just over 400 pages it’s one of his quicker reads and any hint of the supernatural is blended with tender moments that ground the characters. “Home is the place where they want you to stay longer,” narrates Jamie as he returns to the Maine town where his doomed relationship with Jacobs began. If this is your first King novel, it’s not a bad choice. You don’t need to know anything about his oeuvre coming in, and if you like the writing style, there are dozens of other King books you’ll probably enjoy.