Warning: My ability to think critically about these matters kind of dissolves with experiences like this. So this is a rave.
Last night I had about 40 pages left on Revival by Stephen King. I sat down with a glass of red wine, got comfortable and read it. In between the lines somewhere my daughter climbed into bed, her coughing was bad, and somehow I still kept going even though she needed some soothing. When she’d settled down again I managed to read the “best” part in solitude while listening to the In The Moment album I’ve been listening to constantly (Black Widow) for the past week in the headphones.
It’s been a very long time since I got a chill like this from a book. I love horror stories but I don’t scare easily anymore. I get the chills but actually not wanting to put out the lights when I go to sleep? It’s been a very long time.
When I first started reading Revival I kind of knew what to expect. The names “Mary Shelley” and “Lovecraft” are thrown around in relations to that novel and so I was excited. A real horror piece from King! A treasure.
It’s the story of Jamie Morton, his life and encounters with Charles Jacobs, a minister and an electric enthusiast. You follow Jamie from his childhood and into adulthood, until the moment his life is finally turned upside down for good. It’s a story of love, family, addiction and the quote “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. It is also a story of religion and obsession.
Before I started this book I had promised myself a little project. I would start mentally thinking about which “moment” or “scene” in the book was my favourite. So with that in mind I set in to read about Jamie and for a long, long while I thought that maybe the scene where little Jamie meets Jacobs for the first time would be my favourite moment in the book.
|Spoilers| But it isn’t. The moment when Jamie describes the “vast ruined city” is without a doubt my favourite. The moment when he realises the truth, when Jacobs realises what he’s been messing with. There is no happy ending for Mr. Jacobs, nor is there a happy ending for his cures. The vast horror of Jamie’s visions of what happens to those who die was the culmination of a very well built novel. King makes a lot of time setting the scene and making the mood right and then he hits you over the head with it.
It’s definitely Lovecraftian and it doesn’t let you down. In fact he gives Lovecraft a real earn for his money because King’s take on The Tall Ones is a) set in modern times and therefore more believable for us that are mortal now, and b) because he takes longer convincing us of the legitimacy of his characters and the novel’s basic premises.
I really liked the character of Charlie Jacobs. You get to know him on several stages of his life, and although he disappears for long periods of time you learn about his obsession and can get a hint at what drives him. He isn’t a “bad guy”, but his insistence of going forward with his experiments is what tears the walls down and the realisation is fatal, one way or the other.
|End of Spoilers|
I won’t go into greater detail. Waking up after a coughing night, seeing the sun shine so that the night frost dissolves into fog in the forest nearby seems to make it impossible to get rattled by a book like that. But it rattled me like Lovecraft never has. It rattled me like books used to rattled me long time ago. This is one of these books that will leave me hung over for a long time. I’ll try to read something else but nothing but short stories will suffice… for now.
I’m a real sucker for a good horror story and this one is one of King’s best!