Why give 4 stars to a book when the climax disappointed me?

I read Stephen King’s latest novel, Revival, this month. I didn’t look at reader reviews until after I finished the book. But I’d seen some quotes from professional reviewers who called it terrifying, scary, or horrifying. But then, King’s publisher wouldn’t choose to quote any reviewer who said otherwise, would they?

revival

When I checked the reviews at Amazon and Goodreads, I saw the majority of them had rated the book with four or five stars, but a considerable number, especially on Goodreads, had given only one star. Many of the low-raters cited the “ending” as their reason for dissing the book. It was clear from the comments they were not talking about the actual end of the book, which is an epilogue, but the climax of the story, which I also found disappointing, yet I gave Revival four stars.

Why give 4 stars to a book when the climax disappointed me? Simple answer: the fault is not Mr. King’s. Though the climax failed to terrify me as illustrious reviews promised, I was captivated by 399 of the 403 pages in this book.  I even correctly anticipated Jacobs’ final “healing.” On those remaining 4 pages, Mr. King described what horrifies him and, obviously, many other readers. But his vision didn’t horrify everyone, and some of those not scared rated this book with 1 star.

I’m an author, and I know it’s impossible to write a book that pleases everyone. If I were to write a horror novel that ended with a peek behind that “hidden door,” I would describe a far different scene—what horrifies me. Some readers would shiver in terror with me; others would shake their heads or maybe laugh. King’s vision didn’t horrify me, but because of the solid writing, the skilled storytelling in 99% of the book, I rated it with four stars.

Have you read Revival? How did/would you rate it?

Linda

7 thoughts on “Why give 4 stars to a book when the climax disappointed me?

  1. Hi Linda, YES, I have read REVIVAL and I do agree with you re: the ending. But you’re exactly right: the rest of the book did not disappoint. King is a master storytelling. My personal favorite of King’s? ’11/24/63’… have you read it? That book had the ‘perfect’ ending. ~ Kathleen

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  2. I haven’t read it but I’ve come across the phenomenon of last minute ‘ruination’ before. It happens when flights home from holidays are disrupted or something negative happens at the end of an otherwise wonderful day out. That last event colours everything that went before and ‘ruins’ all of it. When that happens in a way that affects someone’s perceptions of their whole life, therapy works towards reappraising the influence that this one event has and putting it in perspective. Readers of novels don’t get that opportunity so their experience of the novel can be ‘ruined’ by a disappointing ending. As a writer, I’d be inclined to take this into account and not do something that would take ‘my’ readers too far out of their comfort zones. Seems King didn’t do this.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Suzanne. 🙂 I understand what you’re saying about the end overshadowing the beginning, so I’m not criticizing those who rated the book lower than I did. But what one person finds terrifying is not necessarily what terrifies another person. Judging from the climax of another King book (It) he may have a phobia I don’t share. That particular thing, which apparently scares the heck out of him, seems somewhat cartoonish to me. I suppose it’s possible to write a book that scares nearly every reader, and judging by the number of 4 and 5 star reviews, this book scared a lot. I’m just glad I enjoyed the rest of it.

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      1. Ah, somehow I got the idea that King had done a bit of self disclosure at the end and that had dropped the mood into a pit! I think what we’re both saying still applies though – if you don’t buy into the monster (because it’s not your monster) then the ending won’t have the same impact. That’s the ‘ruin’ for many people who don’t then hold the rest of the book in any esteem. I try to be grown up about it as long as that’s what it is and not some grossly inept ‘oh and by the way, Johnny was an alien all along’ nonsense. That wipes the score and scrubs the residue off the board!

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