Book: Rachel Caine’s ‘Working Stiff’ – I can’t identify with dead people

I bought ‘Working Stiff’ (Revivalist, Book 1) brand new from an actual bookstore, rather than a charity shop, the reason I did so is because I remember the good bits of Rachel Caine’s work and tend to forget the flaws.

For example the first Weather Warden’s Book ‘Ill Wind’ is rather fun and well-paced, then the next 8 books in the series proceed to wander a lot including a cruise boat, a nuclear power plant and a slightly forced link to a separate series of four books involving a djinn who isn’t a djinn anymore… which made the series a bit jumpy.

working stiff - rachel caine

So, having forgotten Rachel’s habit of starting strong before going somewhere odd I paid RRP, or somewhere closer than normal, for this book despite not knowing what it was about.

It turned out to be about a young lady, Bryn Davis, who – following a stint in the army, goes to work as a in a mortuary. It transpires that her new employer is involved in a drug which can resurrect the dead – but they need regular doses or they start to decompose and things get gross.

Bryn stupidly goes down to the cellar and start needing a regular supply of the drugs… THEN the plot really starts.

Despite realising pretty quickly that there was going to be some ick – running out of drugs (or them being deliberately withheld)  was an obvious plot device to use, I still found certain things a bit ick. Namely the idea the Bryn might have a sexual relationship with someone who wasn’t dead.

ill wind book

That inexplicably gave me the creeps, which is a little unfortunate as I am sure Bryn deserves a man as much as anyone, I just wasn’t comfy with glorified necrophilia.

Also the book is a bit too dark, the entirely situation is pretty hopeless, Bryn’s options are limited and she is a puppet to anyone who has a supply of the drugs – this does rather limit her options no matter what she might WANT to do.

Having a strong woman survive horrible circumstances and come out stronger is rewarding for a reader, having a strong woman stuck in a dead-end is not and it feels like a waste. Bryn is the perfect victim in seemingly endless scenarios that I would normally associate with the new recent trend of overly graphic horror films – which I avoid like the plague.


(Photo from the BBC – I needed a cat photo to balance out this book!)

She does have the help of a few people, but in the grand scheme of things they are outnumbered, under-equipped and not-exactly trustworthy.

There are two sequels, but I don’t really want to read them as obviously Bryn can’t stay on the drugs as permanent wage slave; this leaves Bryn’s only ways out are a slow rotting death, a quick death from someone who cares for her or a miracle cure.

Option three is less gross and traumatic for everyone (including the reader) but would be a bit farfetched. Options one and two are just depressing, which could happen but based on Morganville and Weather Wardens doesn’t seem Caine’s style… then again I didn’t think zombie sex was her style either…

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