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Book Review: Revival by Stephen King

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Revival book by Stephen King

Revival tells the life stories of two men, a miracle man called Charles Jacobs who has an interest in the supposed healing powers of electricity & his on again off again protege Jamie Morton, who finds himself drawn back into the ex-priests orbit time & again over the span of their lives. King’s followup to Dr. Sleep is also viewed as one of his better late-era efforts and reviews often mention the ending (& the word bleak seems to come up a lot).

What King does here is kind of miraculous, whereby we get their lives sketched out in a mere 400 pages. If this had been written in his 80’s heyday it would’ve been twice as long at least. So there is an economy to the writing but it feels like you’re getting much more story as a result.

Also the book feels largely disinterested in plot so much as it is an examination of these two men through the intersection of religion & science, grief & addition. The lapsed priest Jacobs places his faith in a different kind of power in order to find meaning in his life after a great loss, while Jamie finds himself inexorably drawn back to his mentor.

When a book or film comes with a lot of hype attached, it’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm & have your expectations raised, which can often lead to disappointment (see also the film version of Dr Sleep). Thankfully, Revival both meets & subverts expectations, by not being a pure horror story & also delving into a well set up burst of cosmic darkness in the home stretch.

King is writing at the top of his game here—every paragraph & chapter ends with a sentence or moment that draws you on. And then we get to that ending which I won’t spoil, but amplifies the sinister undertones to Jacobs experiments & dives headfirst into Lovecraft country, leaving the characters & reader alike in a black pit of existential despair. King famously doesn’t plan his endings but I suspect that wasn’t the case here as he very subtly hints at & builds towards it through the book. It’s quite a feat & may leave some readers feeling adrift & unsettled but that seems to be one of King’s aims & he pulls it off with all the skills he has attained over his 40+ years writing.

5 out of 5


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