Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Book Review: "Working Stiff"

This is going to be a tough review to write. Because I love Rachel Caine’s books. I’ve read the entire “Weather Warden” series and love it. The spin-off “Outcast” series has been great so far, as well. And, my personal favorite (even though it’s for teens) is the “Morganville Vampires” series. Awesome books.

This new book/series…not so much. In fact, I hated this book. There, I said it. And now I feel really guilty. But, you know, it’s all personal taste and this is just MY opinion so take it for what it is.

Like I said, I really wanted to like this boo and I started out all prepared to give it the full willing suspension of disbelief, etc., but from the first few pages, I just did NOT connect with the main character. In fact, I can’t even remember her name as I’m typing this and I just finished the book yesterday.
(Pause – while I go look it up)

Oh yeah, it’s Bryn Davis. And she and I just never managed to get a groove going. I don’t know if it’s because she’s introduced to us on her first day at a new job…in a funeral parlor…or if it’s that I couldn’t put her past as a soldier in Iraq together with her current behavior or what, but I just didn’t like her. And then she goes and complicates that feeling by doing some really stupid stuff.

Look, you DON’T go back down into the creepy, cold embalming room all by yourself at night. You just don’t. AND when the equally creepy, cold funeral director beckons you back inside after you’ve already made it to the parking lot (and I don’t care that he’s your boss) you DON’T GO. You run for the bus stop like all the hounds of hell are at your back.

And then maybe you wouldn’t end up as a revived zombie.

I will give the Ms. Caine credit for attempting to tackle the urban fantasy genre from the zombie point of view. I mean we’ve already had werewolves and vampires ad nauseum so I suppose we had to go the zombie route at some point.

All that stands between Bryn and her slow (but still mentally aware) decline into decomposition and then eventual death is a daily shot of a “drug” which really isn’t a drug. It’s a solution filled with nanites (microscopic machines) that repair everything that’s wrong with the body at and after death.

First off, I felt that the time frame on the shots being daily put some constraints on the story as the action has to revolve around Bryn getting her shot and you know, of course, there’s eventually going to be a section where she doesn’t get it on time.

The book also avoids any discussion of how emotion, intelligence and the soul are brought back into the body after the initial death. Can the nanites repair that, too? Is the author saying that those things are merely a function of the physical body and can easily exist as long as the physical damage is repaired? That may be a valid argument for some, but for anyone (like me) of a religious persuasion, it’s hard to get behind that concept.

Secondly, trying to introduce ANY kind of a romance with a chick who’s basically one shot away from rotting in her own skin is…gross. And there’s a word for that: necrophilia. And…just…EWWW! And yeah, I know, how is that different from a vampire romance? I dunno…it just IS! Although, to be fair, I always did wonder how any character in love with a vampire doesn’t at least ask themselves the whole “am I really getting it on with a dead person” question. Still, for some reason…less gross than a zombie.

And then, if Bryn’s initial situation isn’t bad enough, it just keeps getting worse as it’s made clear that she can be controlled through her nanites by anyone who has the correct command code – which is essentially a rape of her free will and mind. Then her sister shows up and, instead of doing the smart thing and getting her out of danger, Bryn again chooses the stupid option and keeps her around.

Guess what? MORE BAD STUFF happens. I found that predictable.

I think it’s the sheer negativity and hopelessness of the character’s situation and the lack of endearing qualities in any of the supporting characters that is really where this book doesn’t work for me.

If I can find one positive thing to say about it, it’s that Ms. Caine definitely captures the horror involved in the zombie state. In fact, she does it so well that it added to the turn-off that I felt – because I read fantasy novels ultimately as an escape and there’s no escape in this book. Even the ending is unsatisfying as major issues are left unresolved in an obvious set up for the next installment.
I just can’t recommend this book unless you are a true devotee of the zombie lifestyle. Go pick up a “Weather Warden” or “Morganville Vampires” book instead.

Have a great holiday weekend - see you next week!



TesoriTrovati said...

I have to say that I am not a fan of these sort of books. But I also want to say that it is a refreshingly honest review that you gave. Thanks for sharing that!
Enjoy the day!

Sharyl said...

I was about to say the same thing. I wouldn't care to read the book--even if it got a good review, just because it's not my favorite genre--but I completely enjoyed your review of it! (That might be the librarian in me coming out, but I have a hunch your review might have been better written than the book itself!)