He was my first “favorite author.” I read The Stand when it first came out. My dad was reading it and I pulled it off his bookshelf while he was at work and ran through it at top speed. After that, I read everything with his name on the cover I could get my hands on.
Right around the nineties, I stopped. I couldn’t get through Tommyknockers and I thought The Dark Half was a phone-in with a lot of potential. I started on Needful Things, but gave up. Something was missing for me.
Much later, I heard him talking about Mr. Mercedes, and for some reason, that got my attention. I screamed through the pages of that one and enjoyed it, although I felt the ending was a bit anti-climactic. A common symptom in King’s books.
And then I heard about Revival with its dedications to Lovecraft and Dereleth and The Great God Pan. I knew King was a Lovecraft fan and was excited to see what kind of Lovecraft pastiche he would do. What would he add to the ever-growing Cthulhu Mythos? Alan Moore’s The Courtyard was a breath of fresh air as far as I was concerned. His novel approach to the Mythos had all the trappings you need, but added an element that was new and insightful. I was hoping King would do something similar.
Again, I burned through the first three hundred pages of the book, and frankly, they were amazing pages. The story of its narrator/protagonist, Jaimie Morton, hooked me and did not let go. Storytelling at its finest. At its finest. I choked up more than once. King’s voice is so clear and crisp. I can hear him reading the words out loud. And he understands that the little things in life are important. The most important things. I loved the line, “All this shit starts in E.” Something only a musician would know. Something that sums up all of rock ‘n’ roll so succinctly. So perfectly.
I loved the first two thirds of that book. Loved them.
While there were one or two “supernatural” elements to the story, the book wasn’t about those things, and they could easily be explained. This was a story about the people and their relationships. Quirky people and the quirky lives they live and the quirky promises and mistakes they make. Page after page after page, I was in bliss.
And then, right around page 270 or so, I saw it. The invocation of the Great Old Ones.
I thought, “Okay, here we go…”
Things started revving up. All else was prelude. We’re getting to the…
AND THEN, CTHULHU!!!
OH MY GOD! THIS IS SCARY, ISN’T IT! ARE YOU SCARED! ARE YOU DISTURBED! IT’S FUCKING CTHULHU! YOU’RE SCARED AREN’T YOU?!?! I’M SCARED! OMG ITS SO SCARY! THE UNIVERSE IS BIG AND WE’RE SMALL AND IT’S CTHULHU! FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!
So, let me explain.
“And then, Cthulhu!” is a common trope in most Lovecraft pastiche. The Old Man of Providence didn’t invent it, but he made it what it is today. It’s the big reveal at the end of the story that shows you just how small you are, how big the universe is, how the universe doesn’t care, how our lives are meaningless and holy crap, isn’t that scary?
Yeah. It was scary in the 1920’s when the majority of the population really didn’t understand anything about astronomy, but the fact of the matter is, we all know the universe is big. We all know senseless things happen for no reason. We all know the world is rudderless and out of control. We all know this.
And the idea that God really does exist, except its a God that doesn’t really even see us as anything other than ants (that’s important if you’re going to read the book; a bit of irony waiting for you at the end) really doesn’t jar me anymore. I’ve read it. A thousand times. Lovecraft’s entire catalogue emphases this point over and over again. And every Lovecraft pastiche does the same thing.
We’re small. The universe is big. So what?
I mean, I should be fair here. For the middle American who reads this book, the vision waiting at the end of it will probably disturb them. But for me? Eh.
I’ve already seen the Yellow Sign and taken my d10 Sanity. What King tried to show me… it’s just a 0/1 SAN loss. No big.
Still… the first two thirds of the book? Breathtaking. Heartbreaking. Life-affirming. A boy with hope and ambition grows into a man who sabotages everything he ever wanted then fixes his life and finds a kind of happiness through an old friendship. That was great. And if I stopped reading the book around page 270, I would have been a very happy man.
But then, Cthulhu.
I didn’t think King could turn the Great Old Ones into an anti-climax… but I was wrong.
Damn, I was having so much fun up to that moment. And then Cthulhu ruined it.
(“Revival” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Revival.jpg#/media/File:Revival.jpg)