A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life. In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs - including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town. Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-30s - addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate - Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings. This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.
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I really enjoyed this book, but I had to alter my expectations away from "horror." I was bracing for a scary story based on the description and some of the early reviews. I was picturing IT, The Shining, etc. It's classic Stephen King, but it's more in the line of the Green Mile, or 11.22.63 style. The story is great. I became interested and totally invested almost right away. King is a master story teller which is why I can enjoy his books no matter which way they go. The character development of the main character Jamie was deep, extensive, and very interesting. I liked him and even more, liked his relationships and interactions with all the other characters. That's what drives this story is the people. I was interested in what happened to them without wavering, and was interested right up until the end. Pastor Jacobs is a great antagonist. He is a great vehicle for the creepiness. He has the hubris, and the lack of humanity that kept me on the edge of my seat. He remained unpredictable which helped create a great pace to the story and kept me guessing. Why only 4 stars? I love the book, but it could have had more. It could have been creepier, Jacobs could have been a little more evil, or there could have been a side-kick to Jacobs that could have been really evil that would have created a little more action. The ending was good. It was worthy of the rest of the story and worthy of the characters. I enjoyed the ending. I loved Morse as the narrator. I've already looked at other books he narrates for, I like him enough to seek him out. While I was listening, I took note that Morse's voice for Jacobs was perfect. He made him sound overly patient, a little patronizing, and a little edgy, he really brought Jacobs to life for me. I would recommend this book.
One Listener's *Meh* is Another's Listener's *Wow*
I find myself in the latter group, because this is how I like my King...it's familiar, smart and layered, the product of a storytelling virtuoso. It reads tight, flows enjoyably without a bump, and whether you are actively searching for the infamous King-style Easter Eggs or just perched on the edge of your seat waiting for the inevitable terror ala King to hit, it is captivating. I for one, liked the slow steady crank -- I know King is like a sinister jack-in-the-box with a cozy style that lulls you into near-complacency...then POW! it sinks its teeth into you. But, I understand well why some listeners/readers found the story "slow" or did not like the ending.
Though this is one of King's shorter novels, it takes its time building those goose bumps. The eerie opening scene is a foreshadowing of the relationship between Preacher Charlie Jacobs and Jamie Morton. Jamie's once idyllic life stumbles into disillusion, sex, drugs, and rock & roll. The Preacher suffers a devastating loss, gives a damning sermon which ends his career in the Methodist ministry, then undergoes a malevolent transformation. Their paths serpentine through the years, with each meeting the pair seem to have added layers of corruption and ugliness -- the kind of disfiguration of the soul the supernatural portrait of young Dorian Gray collected hidden in his secret room. In a sense Jamie sold his soul to the devilish preacher at one point in his life, and there is a contractual bond between the two. King doesn't elaborate on the many incarnations of ex-preacher Jacobs (from minister to carnie to tent revivalist), the bulk of the book is devoted to Jamie and his life of guitars and rock and roll until the electrically charged ending (literally: homage to Frankenstein, and a healthy aside to King's passion for rock and roll). Though you may think this makes for a "slow" read, or a loosening of the plot, I felt the story remained tight and threatening, with a lurking sense of tension always building. I participated by keeping mental track of Jacobs, creating his evolution myself from the crumbs King throws in periodically.
Central to the overall nightmarish feel of this book is the *Dedication* by King, which if you have the book you will know reads as follows: "This book is for some of the people who built my house: Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei, Fritz Leiber, August Derleth, Shirley Jackson, Robert Bloch, Peter Straub, And ATHUR MACHEN, whose short novel The great God Pan has haunted me all my life." A rich flavor pallet for fans of horror and a recipe for certain nightmares. The book will strike a strong Yagsafarian, or Cthulhu Mythos flavor, with a vigorous nod to Lovecraft by the time you finish, but it is the work of the all capped MACHEN that King echoes most in this novel, specifically The Great God Pan. [*you can download this short story free of charge at Gutenberg Project site.] What is it with King and bugs...ants? The answer may lie with his youthful years spent reading the likes of these horror heavyweights, definitely Lovecraft and Machen--'nuf said lest I spoil the last page.
To me this was a *thinker,* a foundation-shaker that had me examining these characters, science, religion, loss and extreme sorrow, and at what point our personal constructs shake and finally crumble. I won't say it is old-form-King. I think he has given readers different facets of his creative mind over the years that highlight his own growing pains and artistic expression (whether readers liked it or not), but I will say it felt like kicking off a pair of 5" heels and throwing on your favorite comfy slippers. It is less about the horror of antique collecting vampires on your block, sinister clowns hiding in the drainage systems, and more about the kind of terror we might feel faced with the death of our scientific *facts,* the disintegration of our *faith.* It's like going down the stairs in the dark, thinking you feel that secure bottom stair under your foot, but stepping into an abyss. Not my very fave King, but one of them; a good entry, and the best in a while.
And, a Post Script of sorts to fellow readers that ponder, dwell, dissect, perseverate...What direction does this story go for you if the Shelley-infused Jacob's first *patient* was actually his wife and little boy (hello Pet Semetary)???