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4.2 out of 5 stars
Working Stiff (Revivalist)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2011
Working Stiff is yet another in a stream of novels recently that has gripped me in so tightly that I simply couldn't put it down and finished it in just a few days without even realising how quickly I was reading. The main thing I took notice of about this book is that it isn't a zombie novel in the traditional sense, in fact, the only thing that made this a zombie novel is that Bryn is a reanimated corpse. There are others like her as well, but they live just like normal human beings, or as close as you can get when a private corporation is keeping you on a tight leash and would rather see you rot than keep you alive, the only catch is that they are dead and must receive daily shots of this drug - Returné - to keep alive else they horribly and painfully decay. But there is no mindless staggering to find brains to eat at any cost, just a desperate struggle to remain alive when all but two, maybe three, people would rather you be otherwise. With all of that considered and the fast-paced action inbetween as they find a way to not only keep Bryn going with regular shots but also attempt to take down the company that they are owned by, who watch their every move, Working Stiff is most definitely an urban fantasy. And a damn good one at that.

I am fast becoming a Rachel Caine fangirl. I have now read three of her books and I have devoured each and every one. She is a genius at creating delightfully ordinary characters and thoroughly unique stories which are easy to read with just a sprinkling of humour and plenty of energy. This is exactly what I look for when I look for my next good read and Working Stiff has it down to a tee.

I was immediately drawn in by Bryn and how very like you and me she is. It begins with her first day working at Fairview Mortuary and her nervousness towards trying to impress her new boss and that her cheap clothes would make her stand out too much in such a rich person's environment. She is so very human and in some ways that makes her the perfect candidate to become a zombie because rather than forgetting what she is, you see her humanity shining through. She has a crazy, but loving, family and a brilliant bulldog called Mr French who might be one of my favourite characters of all time, though I did wonder what became of him in the last part of the novel. Joe Fideli is a warm and funny character with skills aplenty and a wife and kids, and Patrick McCallister is the kind of character that you slowly warm to throughout the story, not really letting on anything about himself until much later on. There are some nasty bad guys to hate, heart-pumping, tense scenes to keep you on the edge of your seat (or wherever you happen to be reading), and some horrid situations that are pretty upsetting, and I have only the utmost respect for any author that can make me feel strong emotions. Rachel Caine has created a very believable story in Working Stiff that shall be going on my `to re-read and recommend' pile.

Honestly, if you don't tend to enjoy adult urban fantasy then I doubt this will be for you, but on the other hand if you are a fan of unique, dark stories with sympathetic heroines then read Working Stiff. If you also happen to enjoy the odd crime novel on the side, I have a feeling this will be right up your street. Personally, I don't, but it is an excellent urban fantasy.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
My grandfather used to say "Life's tough, and then you die."

But for Bryn Davis, death is only the START of her troubles. Rachel Caine's "Working Stiff," the first book in a new series, quickly kills off the heroine and reanimates her, and launches her into a bizarre, action-packed adventure. However, this book can be downright depressing at times, and the story sometimes drags in overcomplex circles.

Ex-soldier Bryn Davis takes a job as a funeral director, but her first day is a disaster. A teen girl kills herself, Bryn is pursued by the creepy Fast Freddy, and she discovers that her boss is selling a strange drug that reanimates the dead. And then he kills her.

When she wakes up, she's still technically dead -- but she's being kept animate by an experimental drug called Returne, which the Pharmadene company has discovered. However, they will only keep her alive for as long as she's useful to them, and since their company has a leak connected to her funeral home, they want her to ferret out the supplier.

But while hired gun Joe Fideli and the icy security chief McCallister are helping her, Bryn knows that her days are literally numbered. And as she becomes tangled in elaborate webs of conspiracy and megalomania, she finds that her enemies are both inside and outside Pharmadene... and if she doesn't stop them, the entire world may be next.

It took me a long time to figure out why I simply didn't like "Working Stiff." But eventually I worked it out -- this book is possibly the darkest, bleakest story that Rachel Caine has written to date. And not in a good way, but in a "I want to suck on the business end of a Glock" way. People are paranoid, greedy and cold, all the heroine has to look forward to is a slow gruesome decay, and a supporting character is grotesquely tortured.

That dark mood also extends to Caine's writing, which is somewhat more morbid than usual. The story also unfolds in fits and starts -- we have short, dense packets of action and shocking twists, followed by slower lagging periods that made me itch for SOMETHING to happen. And Caine couldn't seem to make up her mind whether she's writing about nanite technology or magical zombie drugs. But Caine does deliver in the climactic final chapters, which are much tighter, faster and richly satisfying.

As for Bryn, she's a character who takes awhile to grow on you. She was never quite convincing as a hardened soldier, but she does have a likable vulnerability and determination that really blooms at the very end. McCallister is an interesting love interest, who takes a little while to de-ice enough to really connect with Bryn.

"Working Stiff" is a rather depressing urban fantasy with an unusual premise, but the ending does indicate that the next Revivalist book might be better. But this one is kind of a dark mess.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Please don't get me wrong - I think Rachel Caine is a brilliant author, and I love her MV series, even though I am old enough to be the mother of the target-audience of that series, and so I picked up this one with excitement...only to find myself wondering what light there could be at the end of the tunnel.

The other reviewers have done a great job summarising the tale, so I won't go into that, but I did feel that this book was particularly bleak. I could see no HEA for Bryn, and despite what I found out about her, I didn't feel like I knew her well enough to be rooting for her. Add in the fact that she's supposedly an ex-solder , and thereby would have been used to fighting, ambushes, with above average defense skills and strength, I found her to be nothing like that. She seemed to lack confidence and then seemed to accept what happened to her with utter passivity and surrealism.

Yes, the idea is interesting, but I cannot see where this series can go, and other than Bryn meeting her maker and being 'eternally rewarded' by him for her selflessness and sacrifice, I can't see any kind of HEA for her. So, whilst I will read the next book in the series if my library gets it in, for me, it won't be an autobuy. But maybe not if it comes out in the grey, dark and wet days of Oct/Nov/Dec, as that's a dull and dreary and bleak enough period as it is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2013
Having previously read all of Rachel Caine's 'Morganville Vampires' series (to date), I was already a huge fan of this author. The MV series is, to me, by far one of the most well written (& extensive) book sagas of its kind.
Caine is an author who writes characters that you know. They are the people that you fall in love with, they are your best friends, your enemies and sometimes they are you. She writes stories that are so exciting and complex, and yet at the same time are also easy to follow, with a clear sense of forward moving that flows throughout, two facts which combine to make explosive, unputdownable books.

And in 'Working Stiff' Rachel Caine does not disappoint. The fact this is somewhat marketed as a 'zombie' story had originally put me off, but let me say, fear not because this is a story that is unlike any of its kind. It takes the whole zombie / living dead genre and turns it on its head. I enjoyed the concept behind what causes the un-dead to be just so....well...un-dead. I think the book holds a strong and unique storyline throughout, and despite my initial reservations, the characters are not lost to a tedious flesh eating, blood and gore story. Infact, as with her MV books, it is Caine's characters that bring the story to life. You come to care about them as the story progresses and I found myself pulled into a world that feels so real, I almost felt (and sometimes wished) it was my own. This is a story the breaks the boundaries of what we think we know about the world around us and builds them back up in a way that makes you reconsider your distinctions of 'right' and 'wrong'. It is a story so rich and meaty that you will never feel like there could have been more. And for those of us with still beating hearts, there's a little romance thrown in for good measure.

In 'Working Stiff' Rachel Caine has not only created what I'm sure will become a cult novel, she has also created a whole new genre. One that I'm hoping will live on.

An absolutely amazing book - a definite must read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This was one of those extremely gripping and chilling conspiracy thrillers with excellent characters, pace and world-building. Why then 4 stars and not higher? you would ask.

To put it simply, I'm squeamish. I love zombie novels, but my perfect zombie is someone who I can kill away as a mindless monster. You know, like in Zombieland?

Bryn, the main character, dies on her first day at a new job as a funeral director simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her boss is selling this new powerful drug from a medical corporation Pharmadene, which literally can revive the dead to the same age and perfect condition when they died.He does it under the table, and the corporation investigates him to find the leak - his supplier. All clients are recently dead who agreed to pay extortionate sums of money just to keep living.

Bryn stumbles onto one such transaction and in a struggle of a corporation security team bust she is killed and revived for an interrogation. The catch is she has to prove her worth to keep on getting injections of Revive once a day and keep on living. If you miss just one dose you body starts decomposing... but the subjects can't die easily unless they are dismembered or incinerated...

You remember that black comedy with Bruce Willis, Death Becomes Her?

This book is very much like it.

Only there is not an ounce of paranormal, and Bryn's situation is truly horrific. At one point the sadistic corporation vice-president decides that she doesn't need her anymore and wants her to die naturally while she records the process, and you go through all the pains of decomposition with Bryn...

I truly felt for her and admired her sheer will to keep plodding along no matter what.

However in all this the attraction of McCallister, her overseer, to Bryn was making me feel slightly queasy.

All in all, this is intense and gripping story which I hope to God will never happen in real life. There is much more to it than I mentioned and I really recommend it. It just wasn't exactly right for my constitution, which doesn't mean you'll feel the same way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2012
First thing I have to say is that I am a huge fan of Rachel Cain both The weather warden series and MV, and when I found this book in a discount store was very much looking forward to reading it. I'm not going to go into the plot and characters as the previous reviewers have done that. For me this was a puzzling book, zombies are not a usual subject matter and this book proves why, don't get me wrong its readable and has Rachel caine's usual writing genius, but I think its just the zombie thing, it made me feel a bit ughhhh! And depressed. If you find it in a discount store or in a library and you like RC then its worth a read but don't expect a WW or a MV.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2013
Unfortunately I read the second book first because it was given to me and didn't notice it was part of a trilogy but I enjoyed it so much that I finished it. I then gor Working Stiff. The whole idea is fascinating and the characters are well defined. Rachel Caine writes well and tells a very good tale. As i have a kindle it is unusual for me to read a book and having finished WS I thought I had better reread Two Weeks' Notice which I can also recommend. Grest stuff Rachel.
I am now in the miserable position of having to wait for four writers either to finish trilogies or to produce the next volume in a series.
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on 7 October 2013
MY INITIAL THOUGHTS
Approaching this book I'd say I had fairly high expectations, as it is written by Rachel Caine, and having read a lot of the Morganville Vampire books and really loved them. Though I think The Revivalist Series is more adult aimed.

MY REVIEW
I exchanged a book I had read on the Goodreads UK Swap Group for this book. this book does have a few different covers but for the purpose of this review I will talk about the one I have pictured above. I think the female on the cover looks strong and perhaps edging toward being called a kick butt female character, so upon reading the book I think its safe to say that that is Bryn Davis. The candles in the background give the cover a haunting look. I think the title,author name and series name fonts fit the funereal feel of the cover and the book. Again my pet hate is the quote from another author. Even though I love Charlaine Harris I'd prefer her quote to be on the back cover or the inside of the book somewhere. There's no byline, which I think does add to the appeal of a book. So would the cover alone make me pick this book up from a book store shelf? Yes I think it would, though I wouldn't be grabbing this one first, I would notice it and pick it up to learn more.
So I like the totally different plot of this book. Bryn has just come out of the military, and applied for a job at the Fairview Funeral Home. Bryn quickly learns that there is something not quite right going on at the funeral home and upon working late finds herself bizarrely caught up in the middle of everything with two men named Joe Fideli and Patrick McCallister who are some type of whistleblower/assassin type people who are trying to find out who is supplying the "drugs" to Fairview. The "Drug" in question is very special, as it brings you back from the dead. As McCallister and Fideli are creeping about, Fast Freddy and Mr Fairview kill Bryn as she has witnessed an altercation between them and a client who is trying to obtain more of the drug. So Bryn is dead, then she is in turn given the drug which is aptly called Returné. Which all sounds great until you realise to stay "undead and prevent decomposing" a shot of Returné has to be given daily. The company that makes Returné is called Pharmadene Pharmaceuticals and the cold hearted woman at the top of the company is ironically called Ms Harte, only she has no "heart" at all. Ms Harte is a cold calculated hard nosed business woman. She controls the supply of Returné she can literally cut off Bryn's lifeline. There's lots of industrial espionage, under cover operations, drama, danger, black market drug deals and death in this action packed book. There's crazy scientist Manny who seems to want to help, or does he? The plot at times seems quite complicated, but everything does fall into place as you are reading the book. I don't wish to giveaway any more than absolutely necessary.
We also go through a range of emotions with Bryn as she has to come to terms with being a Returné user/one of the walking dead. she will never have a family of her own, who would want to even marry her? I mean how could she explain the daily shots of Returné to start with? At times Bryn is naturally depressed, I mean normally death is the end of all your problems not just the very beginning of them.
I enjoyed the medium to fast pace of the book, there's always something happening and plenty of uncertainty, and opportunity to muse as to how work out.
I found the characters of Joe, Patrick and of course Bryn likeable. You really empathise with Bryn and the predicament she finds herself in. At one point in the book you wonder if Bryn is going to fall for Joe Fideli but Joe is happily married with children so the love interest ends up being Patrick. Patrick however tries to remain emotionally detached from Bryn, but can he keep that up, how would he feel if her supply of Returné was cut off? Could he live with himself if Bryn had to be left to decompose?
The book ends in such a way that it sets this scene for a potentially impressive series.
So did I enjoy the book? Yes, it was a refreshing variation on my usual type of read. Would I recommend the book? Yes but I'd say it is more aimed at older teen/adults. Would I read a BK#2? Yes I think BK#2 will be going on my wishlist to read. Would I read other books by Rachel Caine? I have read the Morganville Vampire Series by Rachel Caine so I guess the answer is yes.
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on 18 February 2012
Imported from my blog : [...] a tough job, but somebody's got to do it - dead or alive.

Bryn Davis knows working at Fairview Mortuary isn't the most glamorous career choice, but at least it offers stable employment--until she discovers her bosses using a drug that resurrects the clientele as part of an extortion racket. Now, Bryn faces being terminated--literally, and with extreme prejudice.

Wit the help of corporate double-agent Patrick McCallister and Joe Fideli, Bryn has a chance to take down the bigger problem--pharmaceutical company Pharmadene, which treats death as the ultimate corporate loyalty program. She'd better do it fast, before she becomes a zombie slave--a real working stiff. She'd be better off dead...

For me working stiff presented new and unique ideas that I had never heard or would've thought about before. Being a Morganville Vampires fan led me to read other novels by Rachel Caine which is how I came across the Revivalist Series. I honestly could not put it down and finished it in less than 24 hours!

A frightening thriller ride introducing the invention of a drug, Returné, which brings the dead back to life. However this drug is limited and in order to survive on it and prevent the body from decomposition the drug has to be injected every 24 hours!
Bryn, is the main character and the female lead. The book is presented in 3rd person but from Bryn's point of view. She has a likeable personality - even though she doesn't mind working at a Mortuary! She's funny and risk taking and cares for her allies around her who help her out through her struggles. However on Bryn's first day at work she accidentally finds out about her bosses secret ambition to get money out of the rich, leads Bryn into being suffocated, her life slowly slipping away as death creeps up on her.

Patrick McCallister decides to use Returné on Bryn and reanimates her in the guarantee of that she will give any valuable information about Mr. Fairview's Returné supplier. However Bryn is unfortunate and knows little...Patrick has to decide whether to keep Bryn alive or let her slip away slowly as her body rots and decomposes leaving only her bones behind. She launches into a bizarre, action-packed adventure that might just keep her alive...

Working Stiff is fast-paced with unexpected turns and life-threatening situations at every corner as Rachel Caine leads us through the not-so-easy 'life' of Bryn Davis as she seeks to identify the mysterious supplier, set to make profits from reviving people from the dead, holds the key of her survival! With limited time available this book keeps you on edge and you can't put it down! Every page merges into another and then soon you realise you've read most of the book! An amazing novel, though disturbing at times, includes many emotions and scenes when you just start crying. Things could not be more dangerous for ex-soldier Bryn Davis.

A must-read with "A steady pulse, pulling the reader from beginning to end!" (Fresh Fiction)
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on 26 January 2012
I was quite disappointed with this book. I have never read a Rachel Caine book before (although I am collecting the Morganville Vampire books so that should change soon!) and as the MV books are of the paranormal genre and so loved, I thought that Working Stiff would have more of a `paranormal' story to it than it did.

As I mentioned in my Teaser Tuesday post, the `zombie' aspect in this book isn't traditional. It's a very different take on zombies. The zombies in this book are simply people who have died and then been revived with a drug. They go back to living normally afterwards and simply have to have a shot of the drug each day to maintain their body functions. So the story is more of a crime/thriller about the company producing the drug rather than a paranormal/fantasy story as I had expected.

I can't really say much else of the storyline itself as this was one of those books where something major happens right at the beginning. So to say any more would spoil the whole book I'm afraid.

I did enjoy the writing style and I thought the idea was quite original but unfortunately it just didn't grip me. It took me a while to get into and became a bit of a chore to pick up until about 2 thirds of the way in. I also wasn't really fond of the main character Bryn. I felt that she didn't have much character and gave in too easy and just sort of went along with what ever she was told to do. And the only character I found I did really love was her dog, Mr French!

As I mentioned, the story picks up a lot towards the end. I enjoyed these parts and I started to feel more of a connection toward Bryn and what was happening to the characters but unfortunately it was just a bit little too late.

One other thing I feel I must point out to any potential readers is that there are some seriously disturbing scenes in Working Stiff. This is an adult book, not for romance reasons but more for violence, torture, murder and generally just creepyness!

This will NOT stop me reading Morganville Vampires. I think this was simply a problem of picking up a book (mistakenly) that wasn't my thing. However if you like this type of genre, then this is a very well written story.
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