First line: "Light spilled through the window of the pub as I watched them, casting patches of yellow across the darkened street but conveying no warmth."
Chris Holm's debut novel and the beginning of the Collector Trilogy is a stunning story of good versus evil. Taking the abstract ideas and giving them physical characteristics, he offers our three-dimensional world a peek into the fourth dimension--the spiritual dimension, full of angels and demons and...Collectors.
Sam Thornton is one of the Collectors. He collects souls of the damned, a job he sentenced himself to when he made a deal with the devil. His intentions were good, selfless even, but a deal with the devil is a deal with the devil and Sam pays the price for all eternity.
However, when Sam is called upon to collect the soul of a young girl he's certain is innocent, Sam can't bring himself to do it. No collector has ever refused an assignment before; there's no precedent for this behavior. So Sam and the girl find themselves on the run from human authorities and both sides of the hereafter. They have to somehow evade everyone, including immortal demons who can possess any human form, prove the girl is innocent and prevent a battle between Heaven and Hell.
Now I know what's going through your mind right now, "Jen read this?" Yes! And I loved it. It was extraordinary on several levels. A paranormal/sci-fi fan can read this book and enjoy the "living dead" aspect of it. Adventure fans can appreciate the constant action and impending doom. Suspense fans are sure to appreciate the twists around each corner. While I enjoyed all of these elements--and I'm now convinced some of my neighbors are demons--the level I devoured most was the symbolism. The battle between Good and Evil takes on a new appearance. The portrayal of angels and a loss of free will is daring and thought-provoking.
Building a new world, as one must do in paranormal writing, gives a writer some freedoms that realism doesn't allow. However, to maintain a credible new world, it has to have its own rules by which the writer is confined. An "anything goes" kind of approach will turn off most any literate reader. Holm has created a meticulous set of rules for his world that are marvelous. There's such beauty in the intricacy. Take for example this excerpt of Sam explaining the torture of eternity as a Collector:
"'This job--this curse--it feeds on that remorse, forcing you to relive the choices that delivered you to this fate every time you snuff out a life. Every time you tear free a soul, you see every joy, every disappointment, everything that brought that person to where you yourself once were. Every time, some small part of you relives that moment of collection, again and again, in perfect agonizing detail. With every soul you take, you're reminded of how beautiful life once was, and how you let it slip away.'"
Holm is the almighty Creator of this world he constructed. While it may not have come about in seven days, at the end, it WAS good!
Dead Harvest can also claim wonderfully rich characters scampering around in a complex and fast-moving plot. It's a visual story that thunders through the imagination.
If I was forced to come up with a weakness for the book, the best I could say is Holm likes the word "slick" (as in slippery) and he uses it often. That's honestly the best I could do because I absolutely loved his depiction of this other dimension, a world colliding unknowingly with our own. He convinced me it's there and I can't wait to read more!
Dead Harvest is available in paperback (ISBN: 9780857662187) from Angry Robot. There's also an unabridged audio version (ISBN: 9781455885336) from Brilliance Audio, narrated by Brian Vander Ark. I may have to take the next book for ride via audio to see if they did the trilogy justice!