Series: REVIVALIST TRILOGY
Plot Type: Romantic Horror/Suspense
Ratings: Violence-5; Sensuality-2-3; Humor-2
Publisher and Titles: ROC
Working Stiff (2011)
Two Weeks Notice (8/2012)
Is there a down side to Bryn's new condition? Of course there is. The nanites require huge amounts of protein to keep running, and they're not particular about where it comes from. As Brynn realizes early in the book, she is "Dead Girl Walking....A supercharged, meat-craving freak capable of passing on her sickness..a...zombie." (p. 7) Beyond her unremitting craving for red meat, Bryn's main problem is that the nanites are infectious. Every thirty days they compel their carriers to infect someone, so Brynn has just one month to find a way to stop the process before she passes on the nanites to some unsuspecting victim.
The plots of the previous books had some complexity, but not this one. It's just one long chase. Bryn and her cohorts take off across the country in search of a means to stop Fountain Group, but the bad guys are ALWAYS one step ahead of them. The primary villain in this book is Jane, Patrick's psychotic ex-wife, who is also infected with the nanites upgrade and who heads up an army of mercenaries that gets a lot of help from rogue government and military officials. Bryn's team includes Patrick's long-time partner, Joe Fideli, and Bryn's FBI frenemy, Riley Block. If this were a movie, it would be a Bruce Willis über-action blockbuster filled with camouflaged mercenaries operating enough state-of-the-art military equipment to fight a worldwide war. I realize that this is a fantasy novel, but really, every time Jane appeared in the middle of nowhere with her fully armed troops, her missiles, her helicopters, and a full fleet of tanks (and this happens again and again), my open-mouthed disbelief tended to overcome my enjoyment of the story.
Sadly, this is the weakest of the three books, with its long, drawn-out car chase plot that ends way too quickly with a rushed, pulled-out-of-nowhere resolution. Of course, if you've been reading the series, you'll want to read this final book anyway just to see what happens to Bryn and her friends (and enemies), but beware that the first 3/4 of the story is a repetitive series of run/hide/fight/escape scenes, and the ending is resolved too hurriedly and too neatly (There's a definite rainbows and kittens feel to the ending, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.) Click HERE to read chapter 1 of Terminated.
Here are two quotations from Caine as she discusses the series with David Martindale from the Fort Worth StarTelegram (7/29/11):
"I had attended a couple of lectures from some guys who were doing nanotechnology....One of the things they were talking about was how to use nanotechnology to heal damaged cells. From that, I had this idea: What if you gave somebody an injection that would literally fix their physical damage? Would that reverse death. I thought it would be an interesting way to kick off a series."
"I feel like horror is a necessary outlet for people....So many awful things happen in the real world every day that we can't control and sometimes can't even understand. But in fiction, we're able to make those awful things controllable and understandable."
BOOK 1: Working Stiff
The action throughout the book is violent, dark, and bloody, with the good guys getting beaten up and shot more than the bad guys. I am classifying this as a paranormal horror/suspense series, although there is a seed of a romantic story beginning to grow—like a rose blooming in a pile of manure, unfortunately.
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As the story begins, Bryn gets a call from her FBI nemesis, Riley Block, demanding that she help them out in a Pharmadene-related investigation. Since the FBI can make Brynn disappear at any moment if they so choose, Bryn must cooperate with them. The new leader of Pharmadene—an FBI undercover agent—sends Bryn to interview personnel at a janitorial service used by Pharmadene, but when Bryn arrives, she finds the office trashed, with only corpses and a primed bomb left behind. Grabbing a thumb-drive that she finds in the trash, Bryn barely makes it out alive. When the thumb-drive reveals videos of the deaths of three former Pharmadene employees who had been killed and revived with Returné, Bryn and her crew investigate and find that a growing number of Returné addicts have gone missing.
So...the two main problems for Bryn and her friends in this book are to find out who is killing the revived Pharmadene employees and to rescue Bryn's sister from Mercer. In between the action episodes, Bryn deals with her romantic situation with Patrick, which they finally consummate, only to run into some major bumps in the road when a person from Patrick's past surfaces to threaten Bryn and her entire group of allies.
Bryn is still a heroine without much of a future, and her character suffers the majority of the injuries depicted in the book. Even though Bryn heals quickly, each time she is tortured or badly injured, she suffers through a lot of severe physical and emotional trauma, all of which combine to change her. After one particularly nasty torture scene, Bryn ruminates: "She could feel her body trying to process out the stress in random twitches and shakes, but they were like the lightest possible surface tremors, and deep inside, tectonic plates were shifting, crashing, re-forming. The damage had to go somewhere, and it turned inward....Bryn had a new, desperate fear that it would change her, rip her apart and cobble her back together into something that was human only on the outside..something that had lost all sense of what it meant to love and be loved in return. Something that understood only pain." (p. 248) Just as Bryn forces herself back under control, she finds herself beset by an even more terrifying condition, brought on during the inevitable showdown with this book's new group of bad guys. So... just when she thinks that she's hit rock bottom, the bottom drops down another notch.
This is a terrific book, filled with action, angst, and adversity. Two problems from the previous book are resolved: The Diamond/Sapphire protocol situation is dealt with, and there are no more illogical events. The various story threads play out nicely as they begin separately but then interweave in a chillingly suspenseful manner. This is turning out to be a great series, although I must warn you that it is very, very dark, with the heroine placed in one dangerous and hopeless situation after another, with little hope of deliverance.