Thursday, March 1, 2018

Working Stiffs

At a time when civil liberties have been eroded and unemployment has exceeded Great Depression levels, nanotechnology provides the ability to reanimate the recently dead. Far from zombies, but nothing like their former selves, “Revivants” are a ready source of cheap labor able to perform simple, routine tasks. Great news for some sectors, but for many, the economic and social impact is devastating.

Enter Joe Warren—an unemployed college dropout, who is self-absorbed and disinterested in the world’s problems. All Joe wants is a job, food on his table, and a cure for his girlfriend’s lingering illness. What Joe gets is a stint in jail with a bunch of self-proclaimed freedom fighters, and coerced to become an informant by federal government agents.

Joe is forced to examine his me-first attitude, and in the process learns that some things just might be worth fighting—or dying—for.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Working Stiffs is a novel that is unapologetically blunt and dismal in regard to the possibility of a scientifically altered future. Scott Bell takes the idea of zombies to a whole new, creepy, and disturbing level as they become replacements for the working population, which leaves the living human race to contend with the dead. 

Though the writing style of this book wasn't one that I thoroughly enjoyed, Bell's sarcasm and inappropriate language added to the realness of this sci-fi book. Because the notion that zombies could take over the workforce in the future is such a strange concept, the main characters need to be believably realistic. Joe Warren, though the hero of this book, is much more realistic than a character usually is while playing the role of antihero. Warren is not nice. He doesn't care about much other than himself. He is selfish, rude, and is not incredibly intelligent either. In short, he isn't very likeable. But that didn't stop his character from growing on me. It's quite a feat to change the minds of readers over the course of only a couple hundred pages, but Bell successfully did that. Even now, I still don't like Joe Warren, but I respect his fictional decisions, even if it took him a long time to start making the right ones. Furthermore, I did find humor in most of the book, which is also a pretty respectable feat considering the novel is quite morbid. 

The plot of Working Stiffs is very interesting, which I think is why I initially kept reading after I determined that Warren was not my favorite main character and that I did not like the writing style. When Joe Warren's girlfriend is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, he accidentally gets dragged into a revolutionary movement. When the government turns that girlfriend into a zombie, er - Revivant, while he's in jail, Joe gets a little ticked off. But Detective Ramirez has a couple of strings he can pull to force Joe to do his dirty work. With those strings being heavily weighted, Joe is forced to go undercover into the revolutionary group who threatens to expose the decayed body of the U.S. government and all of its ugly truths. Though I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, as I really think the writing style, language, and antihero characteristics of the main character will not appeal to everyone, I did enjoy it and would pass it along if I really knew and understood the person I was passing it along to. 

Rating: 3/5 Cups

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