So we've been hearing a lot about Revival recently. And the novel that spawned all the interest Reviver by debut author Seth Patrick.
It was featured in The Sunday Times recently, has been tipped as a cult novel of 2013 by Stylist magazine, been sold to Legendary Entertainment for film and garnered great reviews from bestselling authors:
‘A brilliant, original and very scary concept - which Seth Patrick carries off with chilling aplomb’ Peter James
‘A highly original story skilfully told, a thriller that twists and turns all the way to the end’ Simon Kernick
Here's an early interview with Daniel Harker, the journalist who first reported on the revival phenomenon, part of a Time magazine feature marking the first anniversary of the discovery of revival. Reprinted with permission.
You’re the first person to have officially reported on the revival phenomenon, do you want to tell us how that came about?
I’d written a story the year before about a fraudulent medium who was aggressively preying on bereaved families. A friend passed me information about a rumour he’d heard, something that sounded like it could be similar. The woman in question agreed to meet, and allowed me to observe what she did. That woman was Eleanor Preston. Everything she told me made me more and more sceptical, and then at last I was in a small room, a dead man lying before me with his family around him. And Eleanor started.
What were your initial thoughts when you saw Eleanor Preston revive her subject?
Disbelief, of course. But even as I was thinking it, trying to work out just how the hell she was pulling it off – surely a clear, unambiguous hoax – even as I was thinking it, I knew it was real. Hearing the man’s voice, seeing the reaction of his family around him. There was no denying it. The video footage that the world got to see was powerful enough to convince most people, but it was just a shadow of the intensity of actually being there.
There have been mixed reactions to the revelation of revival – what are your thoughts on what some people are calling the ‘desecration of the soul’?
It’s an understandable reaction to the unknown, but those of us who worked with Eleanor in those early days knew that bringing religious representatives in to observe the process was crucial. It was their response that swayed so many, I think – the representatives of all major faiths, some with considerable hostility at first, coming out with an agreed position on revival. They recognised the feeling of genuine good that Eleanor brought with her. Done correctly, revival was not, they said, an evil thing.
They agreed on little else, I admit. (laughs) The theological implications were discussed at length without conclusion, but they were content to take it as evidence of an afterlife, of some form.
It has been almost a year since the government set up the Revival Baseline Research Group – do you think revival is a subject that is even open to scientific investigation? So far there has been no significant advance in understanding what revival truly is. What do you think they hope to achieve?
It is absolutely open to scientific methods. People had sky-high hopes at the start, that Baseline would somehow reveal some great truth underlying our own purpose. I don’t know if that could be anything other than a pipe dream, and it’s certainly a heavy burden of expectation to lay at Baseline’s door. But I honestly believe that revival can already be considered a great truth, in its own right.
Schopenhauer once said that any great truth passes through three stages. First, it’s ridiculed. Second, it faces severe hostility. Third, it’s accepted as being self-evident. We may not know what revival is, yet, but we’ve already watched it pass through those three stages.
And as for what Baseline can achieve, I think the question must be considered the other way around. Revival is so astonishing, that we have a compelling responsibility to try and understand whatever we can about its nature. However long that may take.
You’re just about to release a new book called The First Reviver that you wrote about Eleanor Preston and Baseline - would you like to tell us a little about it?
It’s an account of this past year, from the day I met Eleanor: the time she spent at Baseline, helping to locate others who shared her skill; her attempts – ultimately successful – to found the first private revival service. It’s partly a biography of Eleanor, and indeed that had been the original plan, but the scope of it expanded to include my own experiences at Baseline, even once Eleanor had moved on, as well as the reactions of the world.
And finally, would you ever consider being revived yourself?
That’s a hard question, because it requires me to think about my own death. I have a wife and daughter I love, and . . . (pauses) You know, the connection hadn’t occurred to me before now, but the man I saw, that first time, had a wife and daughter too. I saw how much of a difference it made, and even so, I find it hard to come out and say ‘yes’ to your question. I guess that’s just a very human trait, to be in denial about your own mortality.
So perhaps it should be the choice of those left behind. Because I think that’s who this is all about, and if anything I did would make it easier for them, then the answer would have to be yes.