Reviving Revival and finishing the book...

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Free-Zone Committee Reject
Aug 3, 2011
It is raining outside, but fortunately I am spared thunder and lightning, as I have just finished a book with, what else can I say, shock value. It has been quite some time since I have been able to sit down and focus enough on a book to read it, which has been frustrating to me and is a large part of why I no longer hang around here these days. But it was getting to me, the frustration of having countless books and not reading them, and I decided I would make myself read again. Not sure how long I will keep it up, but I managed over the course of several days (whereas not too long ago, it seems, I would plow right through a new SK book as soon as I got my hands on it).

I borrowed Revival from the library when it first came out, but did not get far. There was something dull about it, really. I was just expecting...something. Instead, as I read the book, it was just nonsense to me - this wasn't as it turns out so much the book as my own concentration. It had not hooked me and it wasn't interesting me, so I tried and as the terrible day that awaits all library loans approached, I ended up getting my own copy so I could stop rushing. And Revival was returned to its publicly funded resting place, where it would fall into the clutches of another constant reader or the like. New Stephen King books don't really get to do too much resting on a library shelf, after all. That will come later, after the "new" has faded.

But to me, this remains a "new" book, as it is the last Stephen King novel I was able to buy. And unlike the library, it found itself firmly in its resting place, on a bookshelf where only a small portion of my library is able to reside (the rest sadly relegated to boxes, where browsing and pulling a book off the shelf is no longer an option). Laid to rest firmly between Joyland, which I also never completely finished, and The Dark Tower series.

I hesitated with this novel, of course. I did not actually know what it was about - I knew the title was Revival, and it pertained to a pastor in some way. And the small bit I read followed with that - a Methodist minister meeting a boy and showing him a fake miracle, a friendly illusion. What was going to be the theme of the book? Some big tent revival version of Big Jim Rennie? A malevolent psycho hiding behind religion? Something else? And I wasn't sure I really wanted to hear a story about a corrupt, evil TV preacher preying on people. I wasn't sure what the religious themes would be.

So I wanted to start reading, and this was a good place to begin, reservations or not. After all, worst comes to worst, I could close the book and move on. I mean, it's not like the book waits until the end when you are good and invested in it before punching you in the gut, right?

Well, I didn't get what I expected. I got a rather dull, uneventful story about a young pastor who is quite kind and enthusiastic, a character who is not repulsive but likable, and his interactions with the youth, particularly the narrator. There was no horror, and no real conflict, but there was tragedy.

Perhaps I was caught unaware, expecting to feel the undercurrent of "something wrong" that happens in horror fiction, where things just are not quite right. This book did not give that. For any indication that there was something off, it never seemed to be very wrong.

Then it jumped ahead many years, and those once young lives have been ruined in time - a tragic death, addiction, and of course, a disgraced minister who has abandoned faith and found something new to keep him happy. Not really new, as it was always with him, but his interests had taken the place of his former faith. And although strange things happened, they were not that strange. Nothing was particularly "wrong".

So I come to my frustration with the book - and I am not sure how I feel on it. For 300 pages, I read the last thing I expected from the book - there was really no horror, no action, and what undercurrents and foreboding I would have expected were not there. It was, more or less, just a life story about a guy who once knew a pastor. Jamie's story wasn't bland, it wasn't boring to read - and the characters and situations made it interesting. Just not really strange. About half-way through the book, I did a search, hoping not to find spoilers, but to see if maybe I misunderstood what the book was about it. I didn't, it was just written in such a way that the horror wasn't there and the fantastical was not on well on display. It was not a bad read to that point, but it was not a strong work of fantasy, horror, or any of the like.

It takes the first half of the last 100 pages to start to fall into place. Then, the scary part develops and you see where its been in the story, somewhat, but not much. Even then, it is not much. Then the final part of the book changes everything. The story, the action, is really in the last 50 pages or so.

So I finished it. The ending, it was, well, bleak. A kind of strange bleakness, because, maybe you could say, nothing happened. But Something Happened. And there it is, that sense, that underlying nervousness that the book avoided. Perhaps I should suggest not to dwell on that ending too much, because it really might make you go mad.

I did find myself pleasantly surprised at how the character of Jacobs played out, he wasn't Rennie, he wasn't Mrs. Carmody, and he wasn't Randall Flagg. He was, I think, a counterpoint to the Dark Tower version of Callahan. A minister who lost his way, but they follow opposite paths afterward.

I enjoyed the book, and I can't decide whether it was worth it for the long non-fantastical life story or if it was just lacking until the end. Maybe it should have been a novella instead.


Free-Zone Committee Reject
Aug 3, 2011
Ah, the ants. I was trying to not give much in the way of spoilers, despite it not being "new" (to me, as I said it still is a new book, and would not have been thrilled to have it spoiled). But since it's come up - I don't think much of the ants. Ants aren't something that I find particularly scary, though the dream sequence is quite horrifying, and I was absolutely sure something icky was going to happen at the end that didn't, something akin to the dream. I just wondered, why ants? Were they it? What else was there? Are they like some kind of taheen-like beings? Because the ants weren't at the top - there was more to this than just the ants. What is Mother? That's what interests me, the ants, like the real-life version you see scurrying about in a not-too-clean kitchen, are just workers.

When I think about it, their actions are not unusual for ants at all. If ants wanted to, and bothered to acknowledge humans at all, and worked together (which they do), they could conquer the world. They have networks spanning the entire world, and their collective intelligence is astonishing. They shape the world around them not too unlike humans, they domesticate creatures and even enslave other ants. They challenge a lot of things we take for granted, because they are so different. We like to think, being humans, being mammalian, that the purpose of life is to reproduce. Yet almost all ants are sterile. Reproduction is a right for only a chosen few, namely, the queen and the drones. They don't live to procreate, make families, or the like - their life is their work. And as far as working, they are hard to match. But more concerning, they can group together, working cohesively so they cease to be one tiny little pest but a massive carpet of purpose. And each one of those ants might as well be a kamikaze - they don't add to the gene pool, they are expendable. There are hundreds more waiting to take her place.

So if some life form were to dominate the ruins of the world, and callously treat the lost of humanity, ants would be a good fit. And of course, they don't act alone, or even as a group, but answer to their queen, their Mother.

And it is good to see both of you again. Maybe try not to go on any picnics or leave food out for a few days, after that little write-up.
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