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Paranormal Thriller: ‘Reviver’ by Seth Patrick

Such a tricky one to categorise: a real genre-bender. There are shades of sci-fi, but it’s a flimsy connection – no squids in space and it’s (more or less) present day. It might be called fantasy, but there are no truly fantastical elements like magic or dragons or demons. It’s sorta, kinda paranormal – yes, let’s go with that. A paranormal police procedural action thriller…

This is a fascinating premise: certain people have the ability to revive the recently dead and talk to them. The effects only last a short time, but it’s enough to allow loved ones the opportunity to say goodbye, or to allow a murder victim to name their killer. The hero here, Jonah, is one such reviver, working with the police to catch villains or, in some cases, to exonerate the most likely suspect. It sounds all good, right? But of course, there’s a catch. The act of revival takes a toll, mentally and physically, on those performing it, and sometimes strange things happen. Cue dramatic music…

This is a real curate’s egg of a book. Some parts, especially the actual revivals, are absolutely terrific – emotionally engaging, dramatic and oh so spooky, and quite unpredictable (to me, anyway). Other parts I found a total drag. After a great opening chapter, the author feels the need to dump the entire backstory of revivals, and various characters, on our heads. This means, sometimes, entire chapters of dry exposition. Sorry, but I just don’t need to know that much, and definitely not all in one go. If parts of the backstory are relevant to the here and now, then dribble it out in small quantities at an appropriate time.

The characters – well, the author has tried his damnedest to give everyone a suitably affecting background so as to make them sympathetic, and to some extent that works because it’s relevant to the story. Jonah’s history, for instance, led directly to his becoming a reviver, and moreover a certain type of reviver which becomes crucial later in the story (not wanting to give too much away here), so I can accept that. But somehow it never quite worked for me. I never really cared much about any of them. The main problem, though, is way too many characters. There must be dozens of named characters here, and I just can’t keep that many straight in my head. Towards the end, several dramatic reappearances were spoiled for me because I was saying: who?

Towards the end, the plot devolves into standard formulaic thriller territory. You know the sort of thing: people suddenly turn up waving weapons of one sort or another, or behaving in increasingly extreme ways, culminating in the giant oh-my-god-we’re-all-going-to-die palaver that goes on and on, getting increasingly over the top. And of course, people inevitably stop to explain things to each other, or rush back into the burning building/line of fire/whatever to rescue people they don’t even like very much. Unbelievably silly, in fact. I know it’s pretty much what everyone expects from this kind of story, but personally I’d much rather the characters behaved sensibly and stayed within their realm of expertise.

Overall, an intriguing premise ripe with possibilities which the author explores quite thoroughly, let down by too much exposition and a way too melodramatic and long-drawn-out finale for my taste. Recommended for fans of all-action high-adrenalin summer-blockbuster-style drama, with a little horror thrown in. Four stars for the spine-chilling revivals, two stars for the info-dumps and three stars for the ending, averaging out at three stars.

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