Book Reviews

Review: “Working Stiff,” Rachel Caine

April 10, 2014
Review: “Working Stiff,” Rachel CaineWorking Stiffby Rachel Caine
Series: Revivalist #1
Published by Penguin on July, 2011
Genres: Adult, Sci-Fi, Zombies
Pages: 306

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.

With the help of corporate double-agent Patrick McCallister, 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...

Anything by Rachel Caine is pretty much guaranteed to be a great read – Working Stiff was no exception to that rule. The sad fact was that the story just wasn’t for me. What I imagined was going to be a book laden heavy with supernatural elements really turned out to be a tale of corporate espionage.

I’m filing this review under the genre of ‘zombies’, though I do that lightly. What we get in Working Stiff isn’t your typical ‘eating brains’ zombies – rather the person comes back from the dead fully-functional and normal, apart from the fact that they have to have daily injections to keep them from decaying. They can also take some pretty heavy damage without ‘dying’ again – but there’s also the downside of having secret corporate triggers hidden within their bodies once ‘revived’.

I won’t go too much into the story – you can read up on that elsewhere if you’re interested. What I want to get across is that my rating is in no way reflective of Rachel Caine’s ability to write a really good story. The woman can do paranormal, fantasy and now… thrillers woven around corporate espionage. As mentioned, that’s just simply not my cup of tea. I could, however, appreciate the fact that I was able to read this book from start to finish.

Bryn Davis was an alright character – but I didn’t love her. A lot of people talk about how it was hard to believe that she was the type of girl to enlist in the military and serve in Iraq. While reading Working Stiff, I had to remind myself that this in fact was true. Bryn doesn’t come across as your typical soldier type and I felt that what impacted her there could have come into play a little more during the events of this book. I do think, however, that her time in the military believably affected her choice of workplace – the mortuary – and her motivations whilst there.

Fairview Mortuary was an interesting backdrop for the events that took place. It is probably the first book I’ve read where the main character DIES in the second chapter of a first in a series. Rachel Caine took no time in amping up the action and getting the ball rolling. There was also a slew of secondary and third-string characters that were introduced.

I found it hard to warm up to Joe Fideli and Patrick McCallister, but once I did I didn’t mind them. I felt that the romance between Bryn and Patrick was slow, but believable. The tension was certainly there and although it took a while for it to simmer, the changing nature of their relationship was evident. Although their romance didn’t exactly eventuate in Working Stiff, if the last page is anything to go by, I feel it will be a big part of the next novel. I did miss the romance-heavy storylines I was used to, but at the same time it was good to have a break and realise that the way it played out in this book was definitely on more ‘real world’ terms.

Bryn’s family life is really complicated and I can’t help but wonder if her ‘missing’ siblings are going to come into play throughout the next two books in the series. There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on them for no reason. If I continue on with the ‘Revivalist’ series, I’m also eager to see how things will progress with Annie after the events in Working Stiff. I also really loved the inclusion of Bryn’s dog ‘Mr. French’ for most of the storyline, but I found myself wondering what had happened to him about 3/4 into it.

This book is not young adult – it’s one of Rachel Caine’s adult series. Although there was no sexual content in this installment, there was a lot of violence and adult themes. I don’t think this should at all deter any YA reader, but the storyline was very blood-heavy as opposed to the ‘off-page’ killing that goes down in YA.

At this stage, it’s unclear whether or not I’ll continue with this particular Rachel Caine series. I love her ‘Morganville Vampires’ series (a favourite of mine) and the ‘Weather Warden’ series is one I’ve had on my to-read list for a very long time. The ‘Revivalist’ may not be my drug of choice when it comes to genres, but as it’s Rachel Caine I’m willing to overlook that. Time will tell.

About Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine is a pen name of Roxanne Longstreet Conrad, an American writer of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, suspense, and horror novels. Conrad also publishes media tie-in novels as Julie Fortune. Rachel Caine has been writing and publishing novels and short stories since 1991. She is a former professional musician who has the distinction of having played with such musical legends as Henry Mancini, Peter Nero and John Williams.


  • Reply Kate @ Fictional Thoughts April 13, 2014 at 1:29 am

    I enjoyed this book – I think probably more than you did considering I’m up to date with this series. But you’re right – Rachel Caine is a great writer. BE it YA or adult incredibly taltented.

    I highly recommend you check out her Weather Warden series. It’s not as blood heavy (although there are djinn who do get rather violent). IT might be more your thing :)
    Kate @ Fictional Thoughts recently posted…Enmity by EJ Andrews: A ReviewMy Profile

  • Reply Kelly April 13, 2014 at 1:22 am

    I gotta admit, I’m not really a fan. I read one of her books that I didn’t realise was an adult mills & Boon romance and it completely turned me off. I haven’t read any of her M.V series, but I can see a review in your related posts, so definitely going to check it out. If the Zombies in this one were the brains eating kind, I’d probably rush out to find a copy :D
    Kelly recently posted…Stacking The Shelves and Weekly Wrap #017My Profile

  • Reply Jeann @ Happy Indulgence April 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Yay, another Rachel Caine lover! I have read all of her adult series except for this one, and I love them all. I didn’t actually realise this instalment had zombies, sounds amazing! Great review Brittany :)
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…PTALive Brisbane Event Recap: Fangirling over YAMy Profile

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