Revival (novel)

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First edition cover
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre Horror
Published November 11, 2014
Publisher Scribner
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 405
ISBN 978-1476770383

Revival is a novel by Stephen King, published on November 11, 2014 by Scribner.[1] This was King's second novel published during 2014, and his fourth since 2013.[2]

Background information[edit]

The novel was first mentioned by King on June 20, 2013, while doing a video chat with fans as part of promoting the upcoming Under the Dome TV series. During the chat King stated that he was halfway through writing his next novel, Revival.[3] The novel was officially announced on February 12, 2014.[4] An excerpt was included at the end of the paperback edition of King's Doctor Sleep, published on June 10, 2014 (ISBN 978-1451698855). In an interview with Rolling Stone, King stated that Revival was inspired by Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan" and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and, like several of King's preceding novels, he has had the idea for this novel since childhood.[5]


When Charles Jacobs, a new minister, comes to town, young Jamie Morton is excited. Almost everyone in the tiny Maine hamlet comes to love Jacobs, his beautiful wife, or both of them. Things change all too suddenly when Mrs. Jacobs and her baby die in a gruesome auto accident. Half-crazed, the reverend denounces God and religion during a sermon, is banished from the town, and thereafter pursues successive careers as a sideshow huckster, and then a faith healer, fueled by his lifelong experiments with electricity. Jamie meanwhile, grows up to be a musician, and develops a drug problem, which ends after he is "saved' by Jacobs, who uses an unorthodox electrical treatment to heal Jamie and cure him of his addiction.

Afterwards, Jamie experiences strange side effects, including jabbing himself with sharp objects while in a fugue state, as if trying to inject heroin. This leads him to start looking into those that Jacobs has healed. As it turns out, many of them have experienced similar side effects and some have killed themselves and others as a result. Later, Jacobs contacts him; Jamie's childhood sweetheart, Astrid, has developed terminal cancer. Jacobs agrees to heal her, but only if Jamie will become his personal assistant for one last experiment. Jamie reluctantly agrees, and Astrid is cured.

Jamie helps Jacobs prepare for his final experiment: Jacobs has discovered something he terms "secret electricity", an all-powerful energy source that he has been using to effect his miraculous cures over the years. He now intends to harness a massive surge of this energy and channel it into a terminally ill woman named Mary Fay, who he has relocated to his lab. Jacobs' plan is to revive Mary Fay after her death, not in the conventional manner, but in the sense that she will be clinically dead and yet able to communicate with Jacobs and tell him of the afterlife, and what fate befell his wife and child after their death.

The experiment works, but not in the way Jacobs intends. The revived Mary Fay does become a doorway to the afterlife, but to the horror of both Jacobs and Jamie, there is no heaven, and no reward for piety. Instead, the fate awaiting every living person is revealed to be "The Null", a dimension of chaos, where dead humans are enslaved for eternity by insane, Lovecraftian beings, the most powerful of which is known as Mother. When Jacobs collapses with shock and Mother attempts to cross dimensions and attack Jamie, he is able to kill Mary Fay, break the connection and escape the lab.

Later, many of the people cured by Jacobs go insane and kill themselves and others, including Astrid, who kills her partner and herself. Jamie, one of the few survivors of Jacobs' treatments, is left relying heavily on antidepressants and reflecting that no matter what happens, sooner or later he is going to die and end up trapped in The Null under the yoke of Mother.


Revival generally received positive reviews, with many critics noting the book's nods to classics of the horror genre, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan, and the cosmic-horror of H.P. Lovecraft. As of July 2015, Revival has a score of 3.76/5 on Goodreads,[6] based on 35,517 ratings, and a score of 3.5/5 on Barnes & Noble,[7] based on 209 reviews.

Danielle Trussoni of the New York Times described Revival as "pure Stephen King ... reading Revival is experiencing a master storyteller having the time of his life." Trussoni noted that the book "is filled with cultural allusions both high and low: In addition to the Bible and Frankenstein, there are references to Thomas Edison's work at Menlo Park, Dan Brown, The X Files, the Forbidden Books (that is, grimoires banned and burned by the Catholic Church) ... As the Kingian references pile up, and become layered into the events of the fictional world, you fall deeper and deeper under the story’s spell, almost believing that Jamie’s nightmarish experiences actually happened."[8]

Elizabeth Hand, writing in the Washington Post also highlights Revival's influences: "King’s restrained prose explodes in an ending that combines contemporary realism with cosmic horror reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction and the classic film “Quatermass and the Pit.” The tormented relationship between Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobs takes on the funereal shading of an Arthur Miller tragedy." King's storytelling is praised as offering "the atavistic pleasure of drawing closer to a campfire in the dark to hear a tale recounted by someone who knows exactly how to make every listener’s flesh crawl when he whispers, 'Don’t look behind you.'"[9]

Other reviews were less enthusiastic, with The Guardian′s Ben East describing Revival′s ending as "a bit odd." East praises the story's beginning, but opined that "Revival takes a turn for the ridiculous" after moving past the protagonist's childhood. "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."[10]

Tasha Robinson, writing for The AV Club, offered a similar criticism: "Virtually all of Revival is a slow build that sometimes feels suspiciously like a shaggy-dog story, one which may not have a punchline. ... Revival could have trimmed all the buildup and instead been an extremely unnerving short story. King’s fans, familiar with his sprawling voice and comfortably compelling style, may be perfectly content to hang out with him on this leisurely stroll toward eventual horror."[11]

References to other Stephen King works[edit]

Reverend Jacobs mentions developing his sideshow act at the Joyland Amusement Park in North Carolina, a reference to King's 2013 novel Joyland

When Jacobs mentions his plans to leave Tulsa when the fair ends, he suggests it's time to "light out for the Territories", a reference to King's 1984 novel with Peter Straub, The Talisman, and The Dark Tower series.

As a teenager, Jamie mentions that he worked as a farmhand for Dorrance Marsteller. Old Dor was a mysterious character in King's 1994 novel, Insomnia. He helped guide Ralph Roberts to Clotho and Lachesis, and then later to the nest of Atropos.

The first band that Jamie joins is called "Chrome Roses", and is noted to have previously been called "The Gunslingers", a reference to The Dark Tower series.

Jaimie quotes that a door in his mind opens to a beach, an allusion to Eddie Dean and MidWorld from The Dark Tower series.

Film adaptation[edit]

On February 2, 2016, it was announced that an adaptation for Revival was written by Josh Boone while he was working on adapting The Stand. The script is currently being looked at by Universal Pictures and will be shopped around if the producers refuse it.[12]


External links[edit]