We’re reading REVIVER by Seth Patrick

24 Jun

David Gullen inspects Hollywood’s latest hot property.

Seth Patrick
Tor Macmillan, HB £12

Jonah Miller is a Reviver. He can call back the souls of the newly dead, letting loved ones bid a fond, final farewell. He can ask murder victims just who it was killed them. Jonah works in the USA for the Forensic Revival Service. He’s a highly gifted Reviver, his boss is about to retire, his best buddy is the dependable rock in his otherwise emotionally troubled life, and in the world of Revival bad things are starting to happen.

After all, when you start meddling with the dead, pulling back the spirits who have gone Beyond, the Beyond is going to start messing with you. Now Something Bad, something from Beyond the Grave, has taken a big interest in Jonah, life itself, and the fate of the human race.

Reviver is the first novel in a trilogy and one of Pan Macmillan’s big commercial fiction launches of the year. Film rights have already been sold to Legendary Pictures and it’s easy to see why. All the boxes are ticked here. Jonah is a typical cop, he doesn’t do his paperwork, works himself to exhaustion, and has no other life. Both parents are tragically dead – and there lies the emotional damage. He’s half washed up and half burned out, about as broken, isolated and lonely as it’s possible to be and still function. A few beers, a quick shag, and he’s good to go. Or so he thinks. When the big mystery hits and the bodies start piling up, he struggles to cope.

One of the bodies is Daniel Harker, father of Jonah’s mystery-solving accomplice Annabel. Harker comes and goes from beyond the grave. Jonah can talk to him, and on occasion Harker points a convenient spectral finger so Jonah knows to go in the right direction. Useful, that. Less useful is Harker’s intermittent haunting and spiritual possession whenever Jonah and Annabel dim the lights and begin to admit their interest in one another. By now – do I really need to say this? – Jonah is living in a pretty messed-up world.

Reviver has a great premise, some decent action, and some very creepy ideas. It’s a shame that these promising ingredients only add up to a book that feels written by the numbers. Bad people are bad for the sake of it and the treatment of some female characters dances wincingly close to misogyny. There’s also a mysterious group of good-guys, the only ones who really know what’s going on. Rather than spread the word they refuse to talk to anyone, shoot to kill, and have the infuriating habit of setting themselves on fire when cornered.

This is a lazy book in several ways, and occasionally quite baffling. Flashbacks of a confused time in hospital when you’re in hospital and confused is not the best way to do backstory. After a fair amount of set-up the story settles down to its procedural and supernatural dramas, really kicking into life about half way through. It promises much but stalls into an extended excursion into investigative journalism where questions are obligingly answered, and plot knots are unravelled, until finally the real bad guys are exposed and the true horror is revealed. It should make a great film, because it is full of the sorts of holes filmmakers are really good at plugging. We are well set up for the sequel and the sequel will likely display the same flaws again, and this will not matter.

The juggernaut is rolling: so far, so good.

Read David Gullen’s story All Your Futures Are Belong To Us in Arc 1.3: Afterparty Overdrive, out now for screens, tablets, phones and in a collectible print edition.

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