I just finished horror author Thomas James Brown’s latest novel, Revive, a zombie novel with an interesting twist. After finishing the entire work, I think a more accurate classification would be a coffee shop novel with zombies. The heart of the story is, I would argue, made of three characters: Tammy Becks, a young adult struggling to keep her sick mother and rambunctious younger brothers fed through her job at the eponymous coffee shop; Phil, an ex-construction worker trying to keep his only family alive by working as a mall Santa and a regular frequenter of the coffee shop Revive, and the coffee shop itself. The zombies, to me, seem like a secondary element meant to demonstrate certain things about the above three mentioned characters.
This is not to in any way degrade the structure of the novel or the portrayal of the zombies; it was all masterfully done, and presented zombies in an entirely unique and different, fascinating light. I was pleasantly surprised at the logic behind the zombies; Mr. Brown clearly demonstrated his creativity in thinking them up.
As with his previous novel, Hell’s Water, Thomas Brown’s latest work showcases his character development skills. Every single character that appears in Revive is well-thought out; there are no caricatures, and every character adds something to the story that no one else does. Even the peripheral characters, such as the guests in the coffee shop, really come to life, and you can feel their pain as the horror unfolds. The character development that goes on with regards to Tammy Becks is phenomenal, and Phil’s is almost as good. In Phil’s case, I wish that Mr. Brown had spent more time on the character’s past, though even without that, he was still a very well-done character.
I don’t want to say too too much more in order to avoid spoiling the plot, but if you’re reading and expecting zombies from page one, think again. This is not a zombie apocalypse novel; it is a horror novel. It is paced like a horror novel; a lot of suspense (and, unusually for horror, character development) fills the first three-quarters of the book. The ending seemed a little bit rushed, and I think the novel could have benefited from expanding the last thirty or so pages into a longer sequence in order to more fully explain the events behind what happened at the coffee shop; as it was, it took a re-reading to catch some details.
Overall, Revive was a very, very, very enjoyable read, and extremely difficult to put down. Mr. Brown manages to draw you into the novel very quickly, and you feel for Tammy, Phil, and everyone else as if they were your own friends. He inserts just the right amount of humour to contrast with the horror, and effectively uses the zombies to illustrate human nature. And the twist at the end left me horrified, shocked, appalled, and applauding Mr. Brown’s cleverness – all good things in the horror genre.
If you have the time and money, definitely consider picking up a copy here.
Visit Thomas James Brown’s site here.