Revival, by Stephen King

Revival follows the interactions of Jamie Morton and a small town reverend, Charles Jacobs, over the span of several decades. Jamie and Charles first meet when Jamie is a young boy. Jacobs is the new reverend at their local church. He infuses new life into the church, and things are going great until tragedy strikes Jacobs and his family. Everything begins to crumble at that point. Jacobs loses faith, and so does Jamie. But not before Jacobs apparently healed Jamie’s older brother’s voice with electricity.

Time goes by, and Jamie runs across Jacobs again at a state fair. Jacobs, having always been fascinated by electricity and lightning, is running an attraction at the fair, involving electricity and photography. Not exactly fake, but not exactly real, either. Jamie is strung out, addicted to heroin, having just been kicked out of his touring rock band. When he passes out at Jacobs’s demonstration, he awakes to find himself in Jacobs’s RV.

Jacobs eventually convinces Jamie to travel with him to his workshop in Oklahoma, where Jacobs administers a sort of shock therapy to him. Jamie will never touch drugs again. This is just the beginning, though.

Later on, Jamie encounters Jacobs once again. He seems to have returned to his religious roots, running a healing ministry. Again, electricity is involved. The intensity gains force as the story goes on, and strange things begin to happen to a number of people that Charles Daniel Jacobs has “healed.” Things that are not good.

All of this comes to a head with one big event, toward the end of the book. Jacobs blackmails Jamie into helping him by offering to heal his first love from his teenage years, who is dying from cancer. Jacobs is intent on seeing what is behind the “door” that many of his “patients” have seen, immediately after their “healing.” He finds out. I’m sure he wishes he hadn’t.

I enjoyed the book, although it is far from a favorite. As has been the case more than once, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. But it held my attention, and I enjoyed the character development and interaction.

TTFN, y’all!

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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King

Bazaar

I still love short stories, and I am glad that Stephen King still writes them. As stated in the introduction, some of these stories have been previously published, and I do remember reading at least one of them in a previous book (“Blockade Billy”).

There is a good variety of stories in this book, in my opinion. Some of them are fantastic (meaning completely unbelievable), while others are somewhat terrifying, and some are otherwise disturbing.

I listened to this book on Audible, and thoroughly enjoyed the various readers, although it took me a while to get used to the accent the reader used in “Drunken Fireworks,” which was a great story about a “Forth of July arms race.”

My favorite reader in the book was Will Patton (who also reads the Bill Hodges series). He read the last story in the book, “Summer Thunder,” as well as “Premium Harmony.” Also enjoyable was Fred Weller, who read “Obits,” and “That Bus Is Another World.”

Stephen King even joins in, reading the story “Tommy,” as well as introductions to all of the stories in the book.

My favorite stories in the book were “Bad Little Kid,” which I could easily see being made into a movie, and “Obits,” which also could make a good movie or Twilight Zone-ish episode of a TV show. I also really like “Ur,” a story about an unusual Kindle. My least favorite in the book was the one King read, himself, “Tommy.” I didn’t really get it. Perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention, because I always listened while driving home from work. Maybe I will give it another listen, sometime.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable book, and I’m glad I took the time to listen to it.

TTFN, y’all!

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Mrmercedes

This book begins with a nice interaction between two characters that you think are going to be main characters in the story. But it’s a trick!! They are dead by the end of the first chapter, as the antagonist of the story plows into a group of jobless people, waiting in a line at a convention center, before dawn, desperate for a job. The deed is done in a grey Mercedes, stolen from a wealthy woman in a wealthy part of town, hence the name, “Mr. Mercedes.”

Bill Hodges is now a retired cop, but was on the case of the Mercedes killer before he retired. He and his partner were unable to solve the case. But, soon after his retirement, as Hodges sat, mindlessly watching TV, debating suicide, he receives a letter. The letter is allegedly from the killer. But it has the opposite effect that the killer desired. Instead of eventually driving Hodges to go ahead and pull the trigger, the letter creates a drive in him, motivating him to, rather illegally, mind you, begin investigating the case with fresh vigor.

Mr. Mercedes is not, in my opinion, a typical King novel. Sure there is plenty of action and language, but there is nothing overtly supernatural in this tale. Brady Hartfield, aka Mr. Mercedes, is simply a crazy man, living with his mother (and there is a rather disturbing relationship there, I might add). This novel is pure thriller. Not much of a mystery, because we, the faithful readers, know who perpetrated the crime early in the book. It is simply a race against time as Hodges, along with his landscaper Jerome, work to solve this case. There are many tense moments, several of which you see coming, and are helpless to prevent. There were several times that I sat up straight and said, “OH, NO!” because I knew what was coming. One of those times, it was heartbreaking.

The description of the book says that it is “Bill Hodges Trilogy #1.” I find that to be rather exciting, because I enjoyed it immensely, and would definitely like to see more of Bill Hodges. Hopefully, Jerome will still be around to help him.

TTFN, y’all!

11/22/63 ****SPOILER ALERT!!!!*****

If you have not read 11/22/63 and plan to, DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT read this! You have been warned.

I’m not sure quite what to say about this book. I might be over-reacting because it’s so fresh, but this may be the best King novel ever. It may be better than The Stand. It transcends genre. It’s not quite horror, but, in same cases, yes, it is. It’s drama, it’s thriller, it’s human interest, it’s a hero story, and it’s science fiction. All wrapped into one small…no wait. There’s no such thing as a “small” Stephen King package, is there? 849 pages worth, this one.

11/22/63 is a time travel story. Jake Epping discovers that his friend Al Templeton has a “rabbit hole” in the pantry of his diner. This “rabbit hole” is a sort of “time tunnel” (we find toward the end that it’s called a “bubble”). It goes back to 1158am, September 9th, 1958. Every time you go through it. (I was 6 months old, then.) And, no matter how long you stayed, when you got back, it had been exactly two minutes in 2011. Al had gone back, and as an experiment, had saved a girl from being killed by a gunshot in a hunting accident. The problem is, when he went back, it reset everything. She was dead again. He eventually comes up with this valiant plan to, if you know your dates at all, you’ve already guessed it, save JFK from being assassinated in 1963. He almost makes it, but his health is failing, and he can’t quite do it. So he enlists Jake Epping. Jake is skeptical. But he goes through just to see. At the entrance (or exit) is this guy known as the Yellow Card Man. Later on, we find that these guys are sort of “guardians” of the time travel strings. Anyway…Jake comes up with his own experiment. There’s a janitor at the school in which Jake is a teacher. His name is Harry, but everyone calls him “Hop-along,” because of an injury he received as a child. Seems his father flipped out and murdered his whole family, but Harry managed to escape. So Jake decides to try to prevent this one.

He goes back as George Amberson. Al has already prepared fake identification for him. He also had a stack of money that he had won gambling back there. Easy to win, right? You already know who won everything. George goes back. He finds a way to occupy himself until October 31, the day that Harry Dunning’s father went nuts. But time, as King keeps saying in this book, is “obdurate.” It resists being changed. George encounters several obstacles that night, but still manages to get into Dunning’s house just as the dad is coming in with the sledgehammer. He, along with a helper that enlisted himself, manages to save everyone except Harry’s older brother. He goes back to 2011 (two minutes after he left) to find that Harry survived only to enlist in the armed forces and die in Vietnam. He’s satisfied that this all works, agrees to go in for the five year stretch and try to save JFK.

When he gets back in, he starts over. He finds Harry Dunnings father in a cemetery (at his own parents’ grave) and kills him there, before he ever gets to Halloween night. Then he goes and saves the girl from the hunting accident. Then he just kind slowly meanders down to Texas. He spends a few years in Florida, teaching. He gambles a little (but not little enough to keep from raising some suspicion, which is why he has to leave Florida). He gets to Texas and, not liking the atmospheres in Fort Worth and Dallas, moves down south of Dallas to a town called “Jodie.” He lands a substitute teaching position at the local high school and befriends a few people. Times were different then…they didn’t do background checks.

He also falls in love with Sadie. As he stalks Lee Harvey Oswald through his various moves in Fort Worth and Dallas, Sadie becomes suspicious and cools things off. One day, though, Sadie’s ex husband shows back up and hurts her. He slashes her face with a knife. George shows up, along with their friend Deke, in time to save her life, but not in time to save her face. She becomes very depressed after this, and almost kills herself one night. George shows up just in time, saves her life, and this causes her to finally believe in him. (They had been broken up for a while.)

She eventually figures out that he’s “not from around here,” time-wise. She finally asks him, point blank, “Are you from the future?” After this, she insists on helping him. After many other events, they finally arrive in Dallas on 11/22/63, where, together, the fight through all the obstacles that time puts in their way, and make it to the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository in Dallas, Texas. Oswald is in the window, gun pointed. The motorcade is coming around. George/Jake (Sadie knows his real name, by now, as does Deke) yells at Lee. He turns, snarls, and turns back to the window. As he takes a shot, George/Jake shoots at him with his .38 Special. It misses, but causes Lee to miss. Screams are heard from below. Lee turns and aims at George. George trips when Lee fires. The bullet hits Sadie, who was right behind him. She dies. You knew King couldn’t let George be happy, right? But then bullets fly from below, and Lee Harvey Oswald “danced in death like a marionette.” (Thank you, Elton.) The president is saved. George Amberson becomes a hero. The FBI investigates him, finds that he was not involved with Oswald, and lets him “disappear.” In fact, the help him disappear. He makes his way back to Maine (where it all started…I totally left out the whole Derry, Maine section…as well as the dancing parts; they were very cool). As he finally approaches the “rabbit hole,” he meets another “guardian” (this one with a green card). They have a brief discussion about all the damage that Jake has done by saving JFK. He tells Jake to go ahead, go back to his time, but don’t stay too long. Jake goes through the portal/bubble. He’s in a bathroom, instead of a pantry (remember, it’s still only two minutes after he left). There are no buildings, only ruins. There are some people, around, but not many. There’s a gang of rough kids running around. There are earthquakes rumbling every few minutes. (Oh, I forgot about the California earthquake that happened shortly after he saved JFK, killing 7000 people!) Everything is different. He stumbles across Harry (remember him…I had completely forgotten him by this time) in a wheelchair. This time, he had still gone to ‘nam, but had only been paralyzed by a copter crash. But all the presidents had been different. There had been other assassinations. Wallace had been president, and was assassinated. McGovern had been president. Bill Clinton died of a heart attack, so his wife was president.

Jake decides to go back through the hole. His plan, though, this time, was only to meet Sadie again. Forget Harry Dunning. Forget the hunting accident girl. Forget JFK. He loved Sadie and wanted her back. The Green Card Man pleaded with him. Don’t do it. Just reset it and go back home. After staying a short while, Jake realizes that it’s too risky. He can’t be so selfish that he can risk the world just to satisfy his love. So he goes back to 2011. The diner is back. Everything is back.

After a short while, he takes a trip to Texas. Down to Jodie. Where he finds eighty-year old Sadie. They dance.

Of course, I’ve left out a lot. It was, in my opinion, a beautiful story. There are some problems with it…King made a few mistakes. For example, in 1963, someone tells George/Jake to bet money on the Bears to win the NFC. Um…sorry…that was much later. There was, I think, an AFL along with the NFL, but the first Superbowl wasn’t until 1967. Later, the AFL and NFL merged, forming the sole NFL, split into NFC and AFC.

Also…he kept misspelling Killeen! There is a town in south Texas called Killeen. King consistently spells it “Kileen.” I’m not sure I understand this.

Anyway. I can live with these small mistakes. It’s a great book. Right up there with the Dark Tower.

TTFN, y’all!