All You Need Is Lovecraft
Release Date: OUT NOW!
372 pages | Hardback / ebook Author: Stephen King Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
The “F” word is conspicuously absent from Stephen King’s latest novel. No, not the four- letter one. A considerably longer one, coined by Mary Shelley.
Revival’s narrator, Jamie Morton, is another in a long line of King protagonists with a creative career; in this case he’s a rock guitarist. Not a particularly accomplished one all told, though he manages to make a living on the peripheries of the business from the ’ 60s right up to 2014.
Yes, this another one of those decades- spanning fictional biographies laced through with supernatural spookiness. The kind of book that King adores writing. So, of course, we get that patented King- style sepia- tinted, nostalgia-goggled childhood; then there are the teenage years, with Jamie discovering sex and guitars; then the drugs and flares; then retribution and self- realisation; then the moaning about aching joints and waking up for a pee.
All the while, King shows off his extensive rock research, and weaves in the tale of an electricity- obsessed ex- Reverend whose life keeps intersecting with Jamie’s. The older Jamie grows, the more eccentric the former man of the cloth becomes, at one point becoming a carny huckster creating “lightning portraits”, then creating his own healing ministry, until the whole thing scales up to the point that you can’t believe Jamie isn’t using that ( longer) F word.
Ultimately, though, King’s inspiration for the fantasy elements of the plot turns out to have been influenced less by Shelley and more by Lovecraft. Old HP is even honoured with a namecheck.
This, though, is the main problem with Revival, and one it shares with one of King’s most famous novels, It. When nine- tenths of a book is written in a fairly naturalistic tone, the sudden gear change to one of cosmic, apocalyptic gothdom at the finale feels like a cheap, gaudy parlour trick; a puff of smoke and a clash of cymbals.
Awkward it may be in part, but the characters are great, the pacing and plotting is more economical than many recent King novels, and his musings on the ennui of white, middle- class America in the late 20th century are as well observed as ever. It’s another thoroughly immersive yarn – until that misjudged ending.
It’s odd, though, that King starts a novel that’s mainly concerned with rock music and religion with an extended metaphor about scriptwriting. The devil may have all the best tunes, but King seems to be thinking more about the best movie deals. Dave Golder
A psychiatric institution in the book is called Cosgrove Hall – though none of the residents thinks they’re Count Duckula.