Shelleyrae at Book'd Out's Reviews > Working Stiff

Working Stiff by Rachel Caine
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Jul 25, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: arc-are

So far I have largely avoided the trend for all things zombie and perhaps that's why I overlooked the imminent release of Working Stiff, the first in a brand new series named Revivalist by Rachel Caine. I was a huge fan of her Weather Warden series so when I ran across the description of this novel I put aside my natural aversion to shambling mindless brain eaters and added it to my TBR. I figured that Caine might be the author to change my mind and convince me zombies had a place on my reading list.
Bryn is ex military and starting her civilian life as a funeral director. I like what we learn about her, she is smart, considered and strong but Bryn's first day does not go well. A teenage girl mourning her father commits suicide in the bathroom, the morgue attendant attempts to molest her, a gunman is roaming the halls and then she is murdered by her boss when she stumbles upon his nasty secret, an illicit trade in a drug called Returne that reanimates a deceased person and can keep them alive indefinitely as long as they continue to inject it. Hoping that Bryn can answer some questions, Patrick McCallister authorises the use of Returne to revive her and Bryn discovers she is now a pawn in the corrupt machinery of Pharmadene, the developer of the drug.
The actual idea of this drug is almost too horrifying to contemplate, and Caine instigates some twists that make it a particularly terrifying prospect. Unless Bryn receives her daily dose, for example, her body will begin to deteriorate while her mind will remain intact. Caine's description of the process isn't too graphic but my imagination shudders at the idea of slipping skin and leaking fluids. Really though, it's the emotional implications of Bryn's new status which gives her character an edge. Caine is quite brutal in exposing the issues Bryn now has to struggle with including the loss of her identity and ability to make life choices. Bryn is constantly under pressure, and the result is a raw, gritty intensity that provides depth to her character.
McCallister is the rich, mysterious, Alpha hero with all the appeal that implies but the developing romance is slightly awkward, after all Bryn is technically dead and McCallister is an ordinary human. If you can get past the connotation of necrophilia, then the partnership is actually fairly standard for the genre. Patrick is a little too dominant for my tastes but Caine does hint at emotional depths that I am sure will be revealed as the series progresses.
To be honest, zombies still creep me out but Rachel Caine has convinced me that Working Stiff is the start of an entertaining and exciting new series. This is a fast paced, action packed story with a strong premise and interesting characters and I am sure its going to quickly find a fan base amongst urban fantasy readers looking for something a little different. I'm looking forward to the next one already.
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