Books: Revival by Stephen King

It's Frankenstein.

And before you accuse me of spoiling it for you, let me just point out that Uncle Stevie doesn't hide this fact. Look at the book's title, its cover image. Get 30 pages in and read all about Charlie Jacobs' obsession with lightning and electricity, with harnessing its power. It doesn't take a mental giant to make the connections, so that by the time we get to the end of the book and there are characters named Franklin and Shelley and Mary and Victor . . . Ta-da!

But the fun, as they say, is in getting there.

Look, I don't love all of Uncle Stevie's books. I have definite favorites (Salem's Lot and The Dead Zone from the old stuff, Duma Key and Bag of Bones and Lisey's Story from the post-accident era). This one is . . . okay. There's something slow about it, though I see why it's constructed and paced the way it is; it goes as fast as it can, which is in places nothing more than a lumber, Frankenstein's monster in prose form. But nothing is wasted. Everything that is there is a necessary organ to final beast.

The narrative is given by Jamie Morton, whose life has intersected with one Charlie Jacobs on several occasions. First Jacobs was reverend at Jamie's church when he was a kid. Then Jamie stumbled, almost literally, onto Jacobs at a county fair in Oklahoma. A tent revival in Colorado. A house in New York State. And then it all comes back home to Maine.

Honestly, I could see it as a TV miniseries, each night a different encounter as the story puffs out. Might have to switch actors as the characters age, though.

The last 40 to 60 pages are pure King, his personal twist to the Frankenstein story. It's the kind of horror that's difficult to visualize despite King's descriptions, which means it would probably be difficult to film (or render in CGI) either . . . You know all the old criticisms about how King's stuff "doesn't translate to screen" sometimes? (I'm thinking of everything that was said at the end of the IT TV two-parter.) Those criticisms might definitely apply here, though with all the advances in technology, maybe they could design something suitably horrific without it looking ridiculous.

It's a good book, but not a great one. While in some places I didn't want to put it down, in others I felt like a horse pulling at my traces, desperate for things to be moving. This stop-go storytelling gave me a bit of literary whiplash.


It is the kind of thing that's likely to stay with me. Good writing has nothing to do with genre and everything to do with telling a story that sticks. And Uncle Stevie is very good at that.

No comments: