My view of Revival is coloured, unfortunately, by what I thought it was before reading it. Based on a single sentence blurb and the cover, I assumed that this was a book about an absent death and a human replacement – the sort of story that I am all about. This was not an accurate assumption.
That’s not a mark against it – stories are allowed to be other than I first assume. Further, I’ve only read Volume One so far, and it is possible that the idea (heavily suggested by the cover) will come through. It just means that my criticisms in this instance should be seen through a lens of slight disappointment.
What Revival is actually about is a small town in America. A small town in America in which some of the dead come back. No one knows why, or how, the dead are not staying dead. No one knows what’s going to happen next.
Naturally, this causes problems. The dead aren’t mindless zombies – they’re still people, still with the same personalities and memories. Perhaps, though, some of the revivers should have stayed dead. Perhaps some of those who did stay dead should have come back. And no one is sure if this is a miracle or a curse.
Revival does a lot of things well. It’s very pretty, with clean lines and vivid colours. Characters are effectively differentiated from each other, which is good – there’s nothing worse than not being able to work out which character is which.The book has an ensemble cast, but the two main characters, to me, seemed to be a pair of sisters – one of whom is a cop assigned to deal with the revivers, and one a reviver herself. We get their separate perspectives on the events, but also the views of a range of other characters dealing with things from different angles and with different motivations.
The small-town setting is strongly constructed – everyone knows everyone else, and has a position within that society. The creators spend a lot of effort establishing that the characters do have normal routines, only to disrupt them. The juxtaposition of the mundane with the abnormal is really effective – because we’ve seen normality, it makes the bizarre seem more out of place, more threatening. There’s frequent violence, and it is frequently shocking.
Revival is a little hard to place in terms of genre. The creators call it a “rural noir”, which is accurate but not exactly helpful for the purposes of classification. I’d describe it as urban fantasy, except it isn’t urban. Dark fantasy with horror and crime elements seems like the most useful description, but it’s a bit of a mouthful. At points, it’s full-on horror; at other times, it has elements of a police-procedural.
The main feeling I had when reading it was that it was incomplete. Volume One is set-up, an introduction to the idea that needs to be continued. There’s no real self-contained arc, which is less than ideal. Revival leaves the reader hanging, waiting for a resolution that never comes; it’s all elaboration. The book ends very abruptly, almost as though pages have been torn out from the end.
I’ll get the next one, because I do want to know what happens, and I do care about the characters. Hopefully, with more space to expand, there’ll be a clearer storyline. Based on the first volume, Revival has promise. It just hasn’t kept them yet.