Tracing Trails : Revival, A Review
What with being inspired by Frankenstein and with a killer concept for the cover, I figured there would be no way I wouldn’t like Revival. Stephen King does Frankenstein? Sounds fantastic!
Not so much, as it turns out. Not for me at least.
I think there’s potential here but this is kind of a trend I’m seeing, like the meaty part of the story doesn’t really crystallize until the end of the book and the rest is just kind of meandering in that direction.
Frankly, I think that the focus of the story should have been on Charles Jacobs, the young pastor of the small town as we are introduced to him. The one who is driven away and possibly into madness by the tragic loss of his wife and son. What begins as a scientific interest in electricity becomes a dark fascination and obsession that takes us to the eventual conclusion of the book.
That’s a story I want to read. I think there’s a lot of potential there. Unfortunately, Jacobs melts away into the background and is absent for huge chunks of time. After the start of the book, we don’t see him again until much later when he had left the church behind to be an attraction in a sideshow as a faith healer. He faded away again and is gone until the end when we finally come upon his final experiment.
Instead, the book focuses on young Jaime Morton, who meets Jacobs as a young child. And his story could have been interesting. After growing up, his life does seem to take a dark turn as he succumbs to various issues with substance abuse. But in the end, I kind of felt like Jaime’s story was just a recycled version of Danny Torrence in Doctor Sleep, it seems like the most interesting aspects of Jaime’s journey happens off the page.
Ultimately, I don’t feel like there is much of an arc for Jaime in this story. I just don’t get what the point is. He has personal struggles in his life, which he largely experiences somewhere between the start and the middle of the book. The rest of his story seems devoted to going after Jacobs, a character that he gradually begins to realize is dangerous and needs to be stopped.
I feel like the fundamental flaw of this book is that it’s sort of about Jaime and sort of about Jacobs but not really about either one. It’s a feeling I got as well with The Colorado Kid where it was like watching a bunch of bonus scenes of a movie without getting to watch the film itself.
I think there is a lot of potential for a great, dark and gritty story here. A small town minister who has a passing fascination with the phenomenon of electricity. He’s living an ideal life until the day comes that his family is ripped away from him. Everything falls apart and in the midst of that rubble, he turns to the one thing he has left in his life in the vain hope that somehow, that is going to fix everything.
It could have been in interesting exploration of obsession. Of how a person’s life can be derailed by the things we think we can control but is actually controlling them. Unfortunately, King seems to kind of dance around this aspect of the book and the most we get are whiffs of something larger going on. The story tends to get a little overly myopic and as a result, a lot of the potential impact is lost.
The one shining, positive side of this book that I will definitely acknowledge is the ending. Once you reach this point, King definitely puts Jacobs into a position of realizing the folly of the path he has put himself on. It’s definitely a story that has been told before but I still find myself being a sucker for the kind of tale involving someone finally finding the answers to questions they likely should have been leaving well enough alone, the entire time. Jacobs is convinced seemingly for a long time of the existence of other universes out there and what he ends up discovering is terrifying.
But while the ending is riveting, I’m still left somewhat perplexed by everything that came before it. And keep in mind that this comes from the author who makes a point of emphasizing the journey of a book over the destination. For not the first time in this stage of King’s career, I found myself thinking that the novel wasn’t great but that the very end could probably be retooled into an amazing short story.
It’s unfortunate because this was one I really wanted to like. I think that King would do an amazing take on the Frankenstein story but for me there just wasn’t enough of that here. This book may very well work for others, there’s no real issues with the writing itself that I can see. But it fell short for me.
Still, I persist.
My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.