It’s billed as possessing “the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written” – some claim given this is the man who wrote Carrie, 58 novels and 40 years ago. Actually, Revival’s ending is merely a bit odd given what has preceded it – for the most part this is a fascinating look at baby-boomer America and the power of organised religion.
In fact, Revival might better be described as having the best opening King has written: protagonist Jamie Morton is a six-year-old boy in early 1960s Maine who feels the shadow of new-in-town Methodist minister, Charles Jacobs. There is something wonderfully creepy about this strangely alluring figure who appears to heal Jamie’s brother. At the same time King brings all his know-how to bear on depicting a wide-eyed youngster growing up in a small-town America full of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
Including curing Jamie of his heroin addiction. But as the faintly hippyish protagonist remains pleasingly cynical about Jacobs’s methods and concerned about their side effects, Revival turns into something of a mystery when he teams up with a young researcher (whom he inevitably beds) to unearth the truth about the elusive man now called Pastor Danny Jacobs. At this point Revival takes a turn for the ridiculous. Which is fine: King devotees might expect a vivid recreation of the afterlife. But in the context of a novel with so many interesting things to say about growing up and growing old in the 21st century, the more fantastical elements feel a little silly – when King starts namechecking Dan Brown, it’s fair to say Revival walks a perilously fine line.