Friday, May 4, 2012

Review of Dead Harvest by Chris F Holm (Angry Robot, 2012)

Sam Thornton is a collector of the souls of the damned.  He’s sent to Manhattan to collect the soul of Kate MacNeil, a young woman who tortured and murdered her younger brother, father and mother.  It’s an assignment that has two main problems: Manhattan is the site from which his own fallen soul was collected and it raises painful memories, and he believes that Kate is innocent.  Failing to collect her soul disrupts the natural order between the blessed and the fallen and will lead to personal retribution, collecting it will unlease a terrible war between angels and demons that will see millions of people will die as collateral damage.  Caught between a rock and hard place he snatches Kate and goes on the run hoping to buy time to reveal the truth about Kate’s supposed crimes and stop Armageddon. 

Dead Harvest is a dark urban fantasy.  The book is interesting because it manages to be thoroughly supernatural and yet keep the fantastical elements to a minimum by casting heaven and hell, angels and demons, into everyday landscapes and people.  By that I mean, the world is portrayed as we know it, with the souls of the fallen and blessed dwelling in individuals.  Thornton ‘borrows’ bodies to undertake his collections.  Holm writes in an assured style with engaging prose.  The contextual material is well thought through and conveyed and Thornton’s back story is nicely told.  The characters have enough depth for the story to work but, except for Thornton, are fairly sketchy and a little under-utilised - it would have been nice to find out a bit more about Anders and Pinch, for example.  The plot is nicely structured and tugs the read through the story.  The first two thirds I thought worked very nicely.  The latter third seemed a little rushed, transforming into a kind of caper, and the believability factor, which even in fantasy is calibrated, dropped - Thornton and Kate repeatedly manage to escape encounters in which they really should have perished and the timings felt a little off.  It seemed as if the story had slipped from indie production to Hollywood blockbuster, although it’s fair to say that in the right hands Dead Harvest would potentially make a good movie.  Overall, an enjoyable read that excels on premise and contextual construction.

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