Top 10 Stephen King Books of All Time

I am a Stephen King fan.  In other words, water is wet, the sun sets in the west and Batman is better than Superman…ok, kidding on that last part…maybe.

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I am a constant Constant Reader.  I have read most of his works, except for a very few.  I have even read much of the work of poor Richard Bachman, which has made me sympathetic to those who suffer from cancer of the pseudonym…maybe we can all dump buckets of water on our head to raise awareness for that.  Ok, I am kidding again…

With all of this being said, I have compiled a list of King’s top 10 works, ranking from good to really good to THE BEST IN THE WORLD.  This list is my opinion only and will probably hopefully incur some argument and controversy.  So here it goes:

10)  Revival

Yes, I am going there.  I know this was only published in November of 2014.  But I was sufficiently impressed with it.  In the past, a work such as Rose Madder or maybe even Carrie may have occupied this spot.  However, I was impressed enough with Revival to bump those two off the list (for now, at any rate).

This book deals with faith, addiction and the mystery of what happens when we die.  The two main characters, Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobs, are drawn out extremely well and are very sympathetic.  King displays not only his ability to portray ordinary people in extraordinary situations, but also his ability to write about the ordinary and make it memorable.  I will not say too much more about Revival since I don’t want to include too many spoilers, but it has earned its spot on this list.

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9)  Cell

I thought that nothing could top The Stand in terms of dystopian literature (King or otherwise).  And really, nothing does.  However, if anything is going to come close, Cell would fit the bill.

In many ways, Cell looks no different from the zombie films and TV that become so popular as of late, such as The Walking Dead.  In Cell, a mysterious signal, referred to as The Pulse, is sent to all cell phones one fine fall afternoon.  The Pulse turns its victims into vicious zombie like creatures, who do disgusting things, like tear limbs off of their fellow humans (or zombies) with their bare teeth or tear their own eyeballs out.  In other words, it’s pretty typical of the zombie genre.

But, there is a twist.  As usual, King manages to make this his own.  The strength in Cell is that King draws out several characters, zombie and non-zombie alike, that have depth and make us care deeply for them.  And he turns the monsters loose, as quite a few of these characters meet an untimely demise.  And its unclear which is more terrifying:  the head of the zombies, who is known as the Raggedy Man and is the major Big Bad in the book, or how the “normies” (those not affected by The Pulse) react towards their fellow humans.  It is a classic tale of man’s inhumanity to man, but modernized and set squarely in the King Universe.

And there is a great reference to The Dark Tower series at the end of the book, in the form of a train that has a suspicious resemblance to our favorite psychotic, sentient monorail, known as Blaine.

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8)  Needful Things

I think almost everyone is familiar with the movie Wall Street, with its famous tagline of “Greed is good”, along with the bad guy we all love to hate, Gordon Gekko.

However, many may not be so familiar with King’s work Needful Things.  Needful Things is set in Castle Rock, a familiar location to the Constant Reader, as it is also the setting for stories such as Dead Zone, The Dark Half and The Sun Dog.  Needful Things was meant to be “the last Castle Rock story” and King delivers on that.  Castle Rock is sent off in typical, gruesome King style.  In other words, the send-off is honorable.

Needful Things deals with a small shop opened by a mysterious owner, Leland Gaunt.  It quickly becomes apparent that Gaunt operates as a supernatural version of Gordon Gekko.  He has anything that the casual shopper dreams of…but for a price.  Gaunt trades the desired items for vicious pranks played on unsuspecting victims, and soon the entire town is in an uproar.  Gaunt also takes “greed is good” to a whole new level, as he causes misery and collects human souls as his bounty.  Needful Things was meant to be a metaphor for the materialism that was rampant in the 1980’s.  King does a wonderful job taking this metaphor to a gruesome level, but never losing the humanity that is so present in his works.

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7)  Insomnia

I am also a fan of Lord of the Rings.  In reading Insomnia, it is apparent that King is as well, as he pays homage to Tolkien and his work throughout the entire book.  There is even a ring that takes on significance in the story.

Insomnia centers around a man named Ralph Roberts.  Ralph is a typical King character in some ways but not so typical in others.  The most striking way that Ralph veers away from the typical King characters is that he is an elderly, widowed man in his late 60’s.  Many readers are turned off by the fact that the book centers around Ralph and his elderly friends, but it is really one of the strengths of the book.  King portrays the trials of aging with sensitivity and grace, and even a little humor.  This is not something accomplished very often, especially by a writer known for horror, but King is able to pull it off.

In the book, Ralph is afflicted with insomnia.  If that weren’t bad enough, he begins to see another level of reality that causes him to question his sanity.  However, Ralph soon realizes that insomnia and his visions are really the least of his problems.  He is one of the pawns in a powerful game of chess, and much like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, he must make a decision and do what is right, or the consequences will be beyond disastrous.  Ralph does indeed step up, and the saga that plays out is worthy of Tolkien and his saga of hobbits, dwarves and elves, although Insomnia (mostly) consists of ordinary humans called upon to take on extraordinary tasks.

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6) 11/22/63

If you could go back in time, would you change the past?  More importantly, should you change the past?  This is a theme explored time and time again in both film and literature, with varying perspectives.  11/22/63 is King’s unique take on this subject and provides much food for thought.

The protagonist in 11/22/63 is Jake Epping.  Jake is someone born in 1976.  He is far removed from the subject of the JFK assassination, like much of my generation.  However, he is provided with an opportunity to travel back to 1958 where he can begin the process of attempting to change history.  King’s portrayal of Jake and the people he meets on his journey is beautiful.  King also takes Lee Harvey Oswald, a major figure from US history that most of us only know in an academic sense, and turns him into a convincing character in the King universe.  This would be just one reason why this book is on my list at number six, and why this book has received so many accolades from critics and the public alike.

There is also a nice little Easter egg in 11/22/63.  Part of the book takes place in Derry (a major part of the King universe) and Jake runs into none other than Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier.  Beverly and Richie, as any King fan knows, are two of the main characters in It.  This Easter egg is just one of many King uses to reinforce the idea of the Stephen King universe.

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5)  Salem’s Lot

Buffy the Vampire SlayerInterview with the VampireThe Vampire Diaries.  Even (*shudder*)  Twilight.  These are all titles we make think of when we think of the modern vampire.  However, these titles, along with many others, owe an enormous debt to the next book on the list:  Salem’s Lot.

King spent much time toying with idea of the modern vampire.  He was not convinced that Dracula could be terrifying in a place such as New York City.  However, he hit upon the idea of placing Dracula in Small Town, USA.  And then Salem’s Lot was born.

It is in Salem’s Lot that King shows his ability to juxtapose the mundane and supernatural, with spectacular results.  The description of the town and its inhabitants are something we are all familiar with.  King is not afraid to show the unflattering aspects of the inhabitants’ characters either, making us question who is more frightening:  the mother who cruelly abuses her infant son or the vampire that descends upon the small town, with the intent to enslave as many of the townsfolk as he can.  King also places children in precarious situations in this work, reinforcing the idea that children and adults really do live in separate worlds, and that children are the stronger ones most of the time.  This is a theme that will resurface in many of his later works, often with a vengeance.

King considered writing a sequel to Salem’s Lot.  The sequel never materialized.  However, Father Donald Callahan, the damned priest last seen fleeing town in Salem’s Lot, resurfaces in Wolves of the Calla (book 5 of The Dark Tower series) of all places.  We get a backstory on Father Callahan and a resolution to that story that is quite satisfying.

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4)  The Shining

I struggled with The Shining.  More specifically, I struggled where to rank The Shining on my list.  But since I (and many others) have lived so many of the events in this book, it deserves to be ranked at number 4.

We all know the horror elements of The Shining (kudos to Stanley Kubrick).  Even non-King fans giggle at the mention of “redrum” and are frightened of the portrayal of Jack Torrance, courtesy of Jack Nicholson (thank you again, Stanley Kubrick).  However, at its core, The Shining is a story about family.  More specifically, it is a story about family sticking together through thick and thin, wanting to provide for one’s family and the unshakeable bond shared by parents and children.  And it is also a story about the deterioration of family.  DIVORCE is something that is frequently discussed in the book, especially from the perspective of five year old Danny Torrance.  The visions experienced by Danny are not nearly as frightening as DIVORCE and the collapse of his family.  Of course, once King builds up the tension with his portrayal of the family unit, he unleashes the ghosts that inhabit the cursed Overlook Hotel.  The payoff is satisfying and frightening (who can forget the spirit of the lustful old woman in Room 217) but we are saddened at the end, as the family unit is broken and will never be fixed.

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3)  The Dark Tower series

King said that the Dark Tower is really one long book.  So I am including all eight books and ranking it at number 3 on my list.

King has frequently reminded us that all of his books, from Insomnia to the tales of abused women to the tale of the little boy with supernatural powers, are all tied into the Dark Tower series in some fashion.  He has often referred to The Dark Tower as his Jupiter.  And a Jupiter it is indeed, both in the sheer size (again, eight books) and the content of the books.

The Dark Tower series starts out with Roland Deschain in his travels across a desert landscape.  The world is eerily similar to our own, but is not quite our own.  As Roland’s journey progresses it becomes more and more evident that Roland’s world is a dystopian mirror of our own world but is not our world.  Roland starts off as a hardened man.  Nothing will stop him in his quest to seek The Dark Tower, the nexus of all creation.  He is even willing to let a child die.  He kills an entire town, which includes men, women and children, because they are a detriment to his quest.  However, as the books progress, we see more and more humanity in Roland.  He is given friends to aid his quest.  He even takes on a lover.  He helps a village that has their children stolen once every generation.   He suffers from enormous losses as well, as members of his tet are sacrificed in his quest, one by one.  However, Roland continues to persevere in his quest to seek the Tower.  And we are left wondering, when will Roland finally be rewarded in his quest for truth?  Or is he doomed to remain in purgatory for all eternity, because he continues to make mistakes in his quest and is never able to satisfy whatever higher power is in control of his life?  The Dark Tower has everything we come to expect in a fantasy series:  an anti-hero, a daunting quest, frightening villains, even doomed love affairs.  But The Dark Tower is a wonderful metaphor of how we may make mistakes in our lives, but none of us are ever beyond redemption.  And this is why it is the third best King book of all time.

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2)  It

Childhood is hell.  I have said this over and over.  Matt Groening has discussed this topic at length as well.  Many would agree on this.  But once again, Stephen King takes this concept to a new level in his book titled It.

It takes place in Derry, Maine.  In many ways, Derry is postcard perfect.  It is a biggish small town in Maine.  It’s not rural, but it is far away from the problems faced by more urban areas.  Or so we think.

In fact, Derry is far from normal.  The murder rate is extremely high.  The disappearances and murders of children are even more troubling.  There is evil at work in Derry, and it takes the form of a clown named Pennywise.  In the summer of 1958, seven children form a club that they term the Losers Club.  The children find friendship in each other and protection from the town’s bullies.  More importantly, they team together to attempt to destroy the creature known as Pennywise.  The seven children are able to hurt this supernatural creature and stop the killings of children, which occur approximately every 27 years or so, prematurely.  However, they are unable to destroy Pennywise on their first attempt.  Twenty seven years later, in 1985, the children are adults with little to no memory of the events of that terrible summer.  However, they are forced to reunite, in another attempt to destroy Pennywise, who has announced his presence by the way of more murders of children.  The adults have shed their pasts as Losers and take care of business the second time around in spectacular fashion, although it is accomplished at a high cost.

It has earned its place as number on this list.  Pennywise has haunted many a nightmare and the imagery in this book makes it a worthwhile read on its own merit.  However, King also tackles issues such as child abuse, spousal abuse, bullying and intolerances of differences in general.  He is able to weave all of these themes into a book about the monsters that frighten children and do it in a convincing manner.  This is just one of many reasons why so fans proclaim It to be their favorite King book.

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Finally, we are on to the number one Stephen King book (in my opinion only) of all time…drum roll please…here it is!

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Dystopian literature has enjoyed resurgence in recent years.  Works such as The Hunger Games, The Giver and Divergent are great examples.  But no one can do dystopian literature better than King, and The Stand is proof of that.

The beginning of The Stand is frightening enough.  The government creates a bio weapon capable of killing 99.99% of the population.  The weapon is a flu virus.  Due to an accident, the virus escapes.  The result is that most of the world’s population is killed.  Hardly anyone is spared, not even the horses and dogs.  The remaining survivors are left to pick up the pieces and wonder about the survival of the human race.

King does a great job leaving us wondering about the survival of the human race.  But he is not done.  The survivors are plagued with nightmares about a dark man, capable of horrible acts.  But they are also dreaming of an elderly woman in the cornfields of Nebraska.  Soon, the survivors begin to gravitate to one of two places:  Boulder, CO, on the side of The White, represented by the elderly lady, or to Las Vegas, NV, to the side of the dark man, who represents evil.  A showdown soon results, in classic good vs. evil fashion, as the dark man and the survivors who represent the good battle for control of a post-apocalyptic world.

The Stand consists of unforgettable characters.  We have Larry Underwood, a recovering drug addict struggling to do right by his lover and adopted child.  There is Stu Redman, a quiet man from Texas thrust into the role of a leader.  We have the elderly woman known as Mother Abagail, the granddaughter of a slave who is chosen to represent good.  And then there are the misguided souls drawn to the side of evil.  There is Trashcan Man, a pyromaniac is perhaps the most sympathetic villain in the King Universe.  We also have Rat Man and Ace High.  All are unforgettable characters in their own ways.

The main villain of The Stand is Randall Flagg.  Flagg deserves specific mention.  He is not only able to wreak havoc in The Stand, but is also able to cause trouble for Roland and his friends in The Dark Tower series.  Flagg crops up in many other King works, including Hearts in Atlantis and Eyes of the Dragon.  Flagg is the ultimate uber villain, and is just part of what makes The Stand such a good journey.

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The Stand may be a lengthy book, but we are left with the feeling the story was told too quickly at the end.  The characters (both good and bad) stay with us forever.  We are rooting for humanity to survive and hopefully not repeat its mistakes.  The Stand is timeless, and will continue to remain timeless for a long, long time.

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And there you have it.  My top ten Stephen King books.  Some may be unconventional, but I feel every book deserves a place on this list.  Agree or disagree with me in the comments below!

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Puppy goes A’Blogging: Introducing Duncan!

Hi, everyone!  My name is Duncan and I am a blue heeler puppy!  Mom is busy…I think she must be reading that Stephen King guy AGAIN…I mean, can you imagine?  She is more obsessed with King and his books than I am over my squeaky toys…how can anything be better than a squeaky toy?  Well, except for blogging…maybe.

Ok, about me.  Like I said before, I am a blue heeler puppy.  I was born on 8/4/14.  So I think that makes me about 4 dog years or so.  Mom and Dad got me from a farm in Cross, SC.  I had lots of brothers and sisters, and it was hard to leave them.  But I think I like my new home.  These people are ok, so I might stay for a while.

Here is me after Mom and Dad brought me home.  I was really scared…I mean, I wouldn’t even walk around on my own or anything!  Mom and Dad were worried about me, but I am doing a lot better now.

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Here I am now.  The people at the vet said I weigh about 23 lbs…can you believe how big I am getting?  But I don’t like the vet…they give me shots…ouch!

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Enough about me (for now, you can never really get enough about me, actually).  I have a dog sister, a dog brother, a cat sister and a cat brother.  Wow!  I don’t know how Mom does it…sometimes she can get pretty overwhelmed with all of us.  But she is awesome the rest of the time.

Here is my big brother Rowdy.  I think he really likes me but thinks I am pretty annoying sometimes.  He plays with me.  But he likes to yell at me.  He yells a lot.

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This is Igloo.  Mom said she is really old and I need to be nice to her.  But I have so much fun playing with her.  I think she does too.  Growling is a happy noise, right?

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Here is my cat sister Harley.  Harley likes to be on Mom’s lap.  A lot.  But too much lap time is unhealthy.  So I try to help Mom out and make Harley get off her lap.  I know Mom would much rather pay attention to me than to pet Harley all the time anyway.

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My cat brother Homer.  Mom says he really likes us, he just shows it in a funny way.  I don’t understand why she gets so excited when Homer sits down next to her.  Silly cats…we dogs lick faces and jump on our Mom and Dad so they know we always love them.

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Mom said I was named after some guy in this cartoon that Dad really likes, called Masters of the Universe.  He was called Man at Arms but his name was really Duncan.  I think Mom and Dad are kind of nerdy.  Especially Mom.  But that’s ok.  Dad seems to really like nerds, so yay for nerds!

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Oh boy, I think Mom is in the kitchen and she will be cooking!  Just between you and me, she spills a lot when she cooks.  It’s a good thing I am around to help clean up when she does.  I know she likes the floor clean and I keep her feet warm by sitting on them when she is in the kitchen…what would she do without my help?  So gotta cut this short…more from me later!

TTFN,

Duncan, the pup at arms.

The Old Man Still Has His Writing Legs: A Review of Revival

Oh, Stephen King.  I have an on and off again relationship with him for the past 25 years (although more on in the past 10 years).  I have read nearly everything written by him.  And with a few exceptions, I have been mostly spellbound by his work (horror and non-horror alike).

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I will admit that over the past 10 years, King’s work has been…mixed. Mixed is the best word I can come up with.  Under The Dome readily comes to mind.  Dreamcatcher does as well.  But then there is 11/22/63, arguably one of the best books (not just best King book but one of the best pieces of literature) written in at least the past 5 years, if not one of best post 2000 books, period.

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And now we have Revival, the latest book in the King canon.  And I will state right now that I have NO mixed feelings about this piece of work.  I finished this book two days after uploading it to my Tablet (instant gratification is just grand) and while I am not ready to place it in my top 5 or even top 10, it deserves a high ranking.  It was beautifully written, with a lot of wonderfully, creepy disturbing imagery.  The build up to the ending…I have no words to give it justice.

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Synopsis

Revival takes place solely in the King universe.  Make no mistake about this.  However, there are some distinct differences with this book, as compared to his other work.

This book centers around two men.  It is narrated by Jamie Morton, who is well into middle age when he pulls us into the story.  We start out by going back to Jamie’s childhood in the early 1960’s.  This is reminiscent of much of King’s work, as he has written about childhood and the post WW II era, pre Vietnam era extensively in previous works.  We learn that Jamie is the youngest of five children in a family struggling to be middle class or better.  Family is another huge theme in much of King’s work here, and we are not disappointed here.  The portrait of Jamie’s family is drawn lovingly and painstakingly.  We learn that Jamie has, for the most part, a close knit family.  The narrator describes the tender kisses given to him by his older sister, and how he can sometimes still feel those same kisses today.  And we read about the bickering between siblings, between children and parents and between the two parents.  But all the while, the love is still there and never leaves, much like photographs that fade over time, but still retain their images from faraway places and times.

The second man that this book centers around is Charles Jacobs.  Or Reverend Charles Jacobs may be more accurate.  Jacobs is the new preacher in town.  He is youthful and handsome.  He has a beautiful young wife and a little boy.  All the girls have crushes on Reverend Jacobs.  All the boys have crushes on his wife, Patty.  His son Morrie is fawned over and the recipient of much adoration.  Reverend Jacobs is able to connect with the youth of the small town and make Thursday night Bible study bearable (although still more of a chore than anything).  Church attendance increases.  Not dramatically, but Reverend Jacobs is able to make a connection with the small town of Harlow, and more find their way to Sunday services, where the reverend’s sermons touch something in them.

In fact, Reverend Jacobs is electric.  In fact, the only negative about Jacobs (if you could call it that) is his obsession with electricity.  He spends a lot of time experimenting with electricity and even makes it part of his sermons.  But he brings in people.  The collection plates begin to fill up.  So how can this ever be a problem?  It’s harmless, right?

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Reverend Jacobs is the town’s preacher for about three years.  All is well.  But, as it often is in many of King’s books, things go wrong.  In the time it took me to upload my copy of Revival on to my Tablet, the veil of nice and normal drops, and tragedy strikes.

Jacobs’ wife and son are killed in a horrible car accident one day.  It is tragic and senseless.  King often reminds us that bad things happen to good people all too often, and this is no different.  Reverend Jacobs is beside himself in shock and grief.  And Jamie, his family and the rest of the town are also left reeling, and have to attempt to help Jacobs pick up the pieces.  But there is no comfort for Jacobs.

Reverend Jacobs spends many weeks in mourning.  Jamie and his family (especially his mother), attempt to provide what solace they can but are only a tiny band aid on a hemorrhage.  Jacobs does attempt to resume his duties with the church.  However, this ends in disaster, as the reverend denounces his faith in front of his entire congregation.  Jamie and his family are in the audience that day.  The sermon becomes known as The Terrible Sermon.  After the Terrible Sermon, Jacobs is effectively chased out of the town, a disgrace to the good citizens of Harlow and the church.  Jamie and his family, along with the rest of the town attempt to resume normal lives, in the aftermath of the Terrible Sermon.  But the ghost of that Sunday morning remains, and is never forgotten.

Next, we learn more about Jamie and his later years.  We learn that he also denounces his faith, although he does attend church as a child to appease his mother.  We also learn that Jamie finds his talent for music and joins a band in high school, which is the first of many bands.  We learn about Jamie’s first love, and how he cuts his long hair so he can pass his driver’s test.  We experience trials and triumph along with Jamie.  It is all quite ordinary, but King makes it special.

We also learn that Jamie and his family are not immune to tragedy.  His mother passes away from ovarian cancer while Jamie is still a young man.  His father and brother also pass away from natural causes.  Most tragically of all, Jamie’s older sister is shot by her abusive, estranged husband, while she stays late one day at the school where she is employed.  And Jamie descends into tragedy of his own.  We learn that he becomes addicted to heroin in his mid 30’s, after a motorcycle accident.

Jamie becomes a lost soul.  He is addicted to heroin and nothing is more important than his next fix.  He drifts from town to town, failing to set down any roots.  He plays in bands, but his addiction ends up costing him employment.  But a chance meeting in OK with a person from his past changes all of that.

One night, Jamie attends a state fair.  There happens to be a revival show.  The man behind the show is none other than Charles Jacobs.  Jacobs has turned his obsession with electricity into a career, and makes his living as a performer on the county fair circuit.  Luckily for Jamie (who is suffering from his addiction and a terrible case of the flu at this point), Jacobs takes him under his wing.  He allows Jamie to recuperate under his care, and we learn more of the former reverend’s activities over the years.

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Jacobs reveals that he has continued to experiment with electricity.  And we learn that he has been experimenting with the “secret” electricity’s healing powers.  He offers a “cure” to Jamie, in the form of mild electrical shocks, to cure his addiction to heroin.  Jamie reluctantly agrees.  The reverend then uses his “secret electricity” on Jamie, in an attempt to cure him.  That attempt appears to be successful.  Jamie has no desire to touch heroin.  He begins to feel like his old self.  Sure, there are some side effects.  He wakes up in the middle of the night with the compulsion to stab him in the vein with whatever objects happen to be around. Luckily, there are no sharp objects, so it’s a just a small price to pay to be cured of a crippling addiction.

The former reverend further assists Jamie by finding him gainful employment.  This employment is through a man who owes Jacobs a favor.  Jamie relocates to Colorado and spends many years working in a music studio.  Things are mostly good, although he suffers from the occasional nightmare and the previously mentioned “side effect.”  But still, it’s a small price to pay for the ability to live a mostly normal life.  Memory of the former reverend is always in the back of his mind, however.  He never forgets what he experienced under the care of Charles Jacobs.

As mentioned before, Jamie’s boss is someone who owes Jacobs a favor.  We learn that his boss is another one of Jacobs’ “cures.”  He suffered from sudden hearing loss, amongst other health issues.  He encounters Jacobs in a pawn shop in Detroit, and Jacobs again uses his “secret electricity” to cure the man of ailments, enabling him to also lead a relatively normal life.  Again, the “cure” was worth it.  The man may suffer from some odd visions, but that is a small price to pay for regaining one’s hearing.

Jamie and his boss learn that Jacobs has become a televangelist who boasts that he can heal people through the power of prayer.  Most of these “cures” are obviously faked.  But there are some people actually who are actually “cured.”  It turns out that Jacobs is still using his “secret electricity” to cure people of various ailments, ranging from muscular dystrophy to blindness.  This becomes a lucrative business, as his followers are devoted and will willingly part with their money.  And some are even willing to do favors for him, as we learn later.

Jamie and his boss attend one of Jacobs’ shows.  Jamie’s boss experiences some disturbing visions, and wants nothing more to do with Jacobs.  Jamie begins to research Jacobs’ cures, and learns that some suffer from disturbing side effects, such as being compelled to eat dirt.  However, other “cures” experience more side disturbing side effects, such as suicide.  Jamie receives a call from Jacobs, reminding that he owes Jacobs a favor, and that he will need to be ready when the time comes.

Finally, Jamie receives a letter in the mail.  Jacobs manipulates him into assisting with an experiment to cure a woman of cancer.  This woman just happens to Jamie’s first love.  She is suffering from terminal lung cancer, but Jacobs is able to “cure” her, with Jamie’s assistance.  He then reminds Jamie that he is due one final favor, and again, Jamie needs to be ready when the time comes.

It turns out that the Jacobs final experiment involves the final frontier: death.  More specifically, what happens when we die?  What is waiting on the other side?  Jacobs has a need to find out, possibly because he never really accepted the loss of his wife and son.  Or he wants to prove something to the church that cast him out, that is something that no religion could imagine.

In the last 50 pages, we learn of Jacobs’ final experiment and the after effects.  King puts his foot on the accelerator and we rush towards the conclusion of the story.  The final is experiment is horrifying and also tragic.  Again, Jamie suffers more loss.  He has gained an understanding, and this understanding is not something that betters him, his former minister or anyone else.  In fact, no one is made better and this includes all of Jacobs’ “cures.” The novel concludes and the ending is not a happy one.  The ending leaves more questions than answers, along with the general feeling that sometimes, seeking understanding of our universe is not for the best.  That, in fact, ignorance is really is bliss.

My Thoughts

This was not a scary book.  There were no rabid dogs trapping people in vehiclesNo clowns that live in sewers.  Not a haunted hotel in sight.  No vampires turning a sleepy small town into a ghost town.

However, this book was disturbing.  It was unsettling.  The last sentence of the book chilled me to the core, and I really had a lot of trouble sleeping that night.  I know that I will be thinking of this book for a long time.

Stephen King often writes about ordinary people experiencing extraordinary events.  What many forget about is how well he can portray the ordinary.  The descriptions of Jamie, his family and his small town are painstakingly and lovingly crafted.  I may have had chills at the end of the book, but I also had chills when I read of Jamie’s first kiss and the loss of his virginity.  The descriptions were so vivid.  Sometimes I felt more like I was looking at these events from a real person’s eyes, as opposed to reading about them.  And that is the mark of some excellent writing.

King can also make the ordinary into something unsettling.  When Jamie returns from assisting Jacobs with his final experiment, he drops in on his family.  He visits with his infant great niece.  Previously, his great niece had cried because she was sad her uncle was leaving.  But this time, she can sense that her uncle has been touched by forces that humans are not meant to interact with, and will have nothing to do with him.  She screams until he finally leaves, sensing that something is not right.  This is just one of the losses Jamie will suffer, and King does a great job foreshadowing with that scene.

I also loved how King paid homage to writers such as H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley in this book.  The parallels between Charles Jacobs and Victor Frankenstein are obvious.  King’s descriptions of creatures beyond bring to mind such works as Lovecraft’s “Colour Out of Space” and his Cthulu mythos.  However, King manages to remind us, time and time again, that this takes place squarely in the Stephen King universe, thus making this work solely his.

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There is no ambiguity with this book.  And any doubts about King’s ability as a writer (and not just a horror writer) are put to rest with this work.  We hop in the car with King, and are so busy enjoying the ride, that when King puts his foot on the accelerator and drives off the cliff, we hardly notice because the drive and the scenery have been that enjoyable.

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Connections

Just for fun, I will list the connections I have found to King’s other work in Revival.  This is by no means a complete list, and I am sure there are other connections I may have missed.

Castle Rock is mentioned multiple times.  Anyone familiar with King’s work will recognize Castle Rock as being the central location in many King novels, including The Dark Half, Needful Things and The Dead Zone.

-The term “rubes” is used several times.  This is a common carney term used to refer to ordinary folks but it is used multiple times in Dr. Sleep when the vampires are discussing humankind.

-It is worth mentioning that since there is a connection to Dr. Sleep, there is also a connection to NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.  NOS4A2 is connected to Dr. Sleep via Charlie Manx (the villain in N0S4A2) so this makes a connection to Revival, although it is indirect.

-There is a car mentioned that has the number 19 painted on the side.  The number 19 is central to the Dark Tower series and has a way of cropping up in King’s work.

-Jamie is from Harlow, Maine.  Harlow is mentioned in the short story The Body.

-The phrase “life is a wheel” is used several times.  In the Dark Tower series, the phrase “ka is a wheel” is quite common (ka being something akin to fate).

-Jamie’s boss refers to “the world beyond our world”.  This brings the To Dash space in the Dark Tower series to mind.

-A door covered in ivy is referenced in Revival.  This brings to mind the doors to other worlds in the Dark Tower series.

-Jamie’s boss sees giant ant-like creatures only visible to him.  This brings to mind the To Dash monsters in the Dark Tower series.  It also brings to mind the insect-like creatures seen by Ralph and Lois in Insomnia.

-There is an ant-like creature referred to as “the mother.”  This is reminiscent of Pennywise from It, as it is stated several times that Pennywise is an extra dimensional creature that is also female and has the ability to reproduce.

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