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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Reviver. Seth Patrick.Pan Books (2013)

An enjoyable story that takes too long to fully engage the plot mechanics.Jonah Miller has a talent for reviving the newly dead, a talent used to allow murder victims testify about their deaths. When Jonah has a disturbing encounter with a murder victim, he believes it to be a hallucination. When a revival involving Daniel Harker, the man who revealed the existence of revivers has very unexpected consequences, Jonah finds himself pulled into a secret war. The story unfolds effectively, the reveals are well staged and the plot, once engaged, works well.
The story idea is excellent and the possibilities are properly explored, just in the wrong key. Seth Patrick devotes a lot of time to establishing how revivers moved from the fringes of society into the mundane middle, working for law enforcement and insurance companies. This is very nicely done, the process is accepted at large and opposition is a fringe activity.
When it becomes clear that revivers may be opening a door to more than just the dead, the tone and momentum of the story do not shift sufficiently. The story has moved definitively out of the established context and it needs more momentum to deliver it, the stakes in the conflict are raised without raising the temperature as well. It is not the ordinary that is important, it is the extra ordinary that should explode from the story that is important. How the surface tension of the revivers hides a nasty web of ambition and mistaken confidence about forces that would like to emerge from the shadows does not catch fire the way it needs to.The low key approach does work really well for the human aspect to the struggle, including a very well set up haunting, the cosmic scale of the threat never really comes into view.
The cast are very well set up, Jonah is complex and competent and mercifully rarely stupid, the supporting cast are given the space to emerge in their own right and engage the reader enough to make then care. The motives are clear and credible, Seth Patrick can deliver a nasty edge when required. Overall an enjoyable book, it is a pistol shot when it needs to be a cannon blast.

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