Book Review – Dead Harvest

Guys, look at that cover.  I love pretty much everything about it.  If I were ONLY judging this book by its cover, it would totally get ALL THE STARS.  Listen, though.  I don’t generally judge books by their covers (okay, that’s a lie, but you know what I mean), I like to actually read them before I get all “ZOMG THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVAR!!!”

Before I go any further, click this and just let it play while you read the rest.  This was part of my reading soundtrack during this book, because I thought Book of Angels was entirely appropriate for a book about, well – angels (and demons and collectors and the FATE OF THE WORLD).

Sam Thornton is a Collector.  Not of rare books or beanie babies, a soul collector.  He made some bad choices during his life and as a result, he gets to spend eternity taking the souls of those that are irredeemable.

Sorry, it’s nothing personal.

Within the first few pages, we see Sam collect the soul of “Britain’s Greatest Living Author” and receive his next assignment from his handler, Lilith (“I told you not to call me Lily”).  I know, it seems like Lilith has become more and more popular in literature and television lately, but her character here is done really well.  From this short interaction, we learn a few more things about the world Holm has created.  Sam can be sent on “contract or freelance” jobs, meaning he collects not only those whose actions have damned them, but also those who’ve struck the proverbial Deal with the Devil.  DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN.  We also find out that Sam has no physical presence, he gets around by inhabiting the bodies of the living or recently deceased.  He prefers to take over the newly dead because he gets headaches from the living.  An empty vessel won’t fight or be constantly yelling in the background.  Oh, and he smokes a lot.

Sam’s newest job is to collect the soul of a young girl that has just been caught murdering her family.  No big, he’s been doing this for the last 60+ years so it should be a piece of cake.  Unfortunately, Sam runs into a complication he couldn’t anticipate.  His current job’s soul is pure.  Collecting the soul of an innocent would bring on a full scale war between Heaven and Hell, so Sam chooses an unthinkable option – he takes the girl and runs.

“You ask me, I’d guess heaven and hell look pretty much the same,” I replied. “Only in hell, everything is just a little out of reach.”

The story that follows was what can only be referred to as Hardboiled Urban Fantasy.  Holm has obviously taken his inspiration from Hammett and Chandler, but put his own inventive twist to bring it forward into the 21st century.

“What kept this from being a five star book,” you may be asking.  Well, let me tell you.

  • The first two-thirds of the book were incredibly well-written.  I have many writerly friends, so I am almost positive that what happened here was that the beginning of the story was re-written and revised many, many times, polished and whacked with the editing stick to within an inch of its life.  The final third wasn’t terrible by any means, but it lacked the refinement of the earlier chapters.
  • Sam’s internal monologues are peppered with haftas and gonnas – I don’t mind this in dialogue because I feel it sets the tone, but it was a little distracting to read Sam thinking this way.
  • There was a bit of what I’m going to refer to as a deus in vas figuli - I was a little confused as to where this awesome weapon came from and what it actually was.
  • We’re told Sam’s backstory (how he came to be a Collector in the first place) in a series of vignettes, which was fine.  What bothered me was that the sections with backstory were completely italicized.  My eyes have a difficult time focusing on large blocks of italics and/or bold, so I found myself wishing those portions were a little shorter.  YMMV, though.

These are really just minor nitpicks, though.  Even in the latter portions of the book, there was some seriously gorgeous writing – particularly a scene in the subway tunnels with a fallen angel whose name was once Veloch.  Honestly, I’d tell you to read the book just for that scene, but the rest of it is worth reading anyway.

According to Mandy’s rubric, Dead Harvest garnered itself 4.1 stars, which may not be all the stars but is still pretty damn good.

29 thoughts on “Book Review – Dead Harvest

  1. That does seem like an appreciable number of stars.

    I don’t like when there’s almost a physical change in the writing brought on by some development. It’s almost that weird thing that happens in every horror movie the moment the “scary unimaginable” becomes known to us on screen. . . it changes from a horror movie into an action/adventure. The suspense departs, replaced by movement or the chase. Books that do that have a slapdash. . . threw this last little bit together feel. . . and unfortunately, that’s what you end the book on.

    • I didn’t necessarily get that feeling here, though. It was more that it felt like SO MUCH time had been spent on revising the first 70% that the last 30% just didn’t live up to it. It ended well (and was something that I absolutely didn’t see coming), and even though the latter portions of the book weren’t as together as the former, it was still a worthwhile read.

    • I know I already tweeted you the link to the publisher, but I just checked on Amazon, and there are used copies of the paperback for $5. Still a decent price for a book, I think.

  2. This sounds rather interesting. I’m going to check it out sometime. Amy–have you tried Better World Books? Maybe it’s in their bargain bin for just a couple bucks? I’ll look into it later.

    • This is his first book and it just came out a few months ago. I hadn’t heard of him before a friend gave me the book, either. :)

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  8. I rated it the same way you did. Gave it a solid 4 out of five. I do wish rating systems had more stars, though, because 4 is just 80%, and I felt like this book was 90% or better.

    I agreed about the weapon. I was hoping for a touch more info. I have ideas, but…

    • 4.5! But seriously, I know how you feel. I am tempted to go back and up this one to five now that I’ve read the others (and may do so when I re-read them, actually).

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