Dead Harvest

One of the more interesting new publishers around is Angry Robot, responsible for Zoo City and Empire State. They ran a Twitter competition a little while ago, and I was lucky enough to be one of the winners! My prize was an advance reading copy (ARC) of the not-yet-published debut novel by Chris F Holm, entitled Dead Harvest. The ARC came, together with a cool fridge magnet and bookmark, directly from Angry Robot publisher Marc Gascoigne, and it was pretty exciting to get a book that’s not yet available in the shops. I took it with me on my recent trip to Australia to visit my family, and after completing Monsters of Men, the final book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, I picked up the shiny new ARC.

I literally had no idea what to expect: no preconceptions whatsoever. I was quite prepared to give up after a few pages, as I have absolutely no compulsion to finish any book, or to continue reading a book that does not grab me within a few pages.

Fortunately, Dead Harvest grabbed me. And how. It’s an urban fantasy, so think angels and demons, but in a modern, realistic framework. Our hero is Sam Thornton, a collector of souls. Not technically alive, he has the ability to inhabit the body of any living or recently dead human in order to carry out his grisly task. Until the day he tries to collect the soul of Kate, a young multiple murderer, and becomes convinced that she is innocent. He is soon on the run from the forces of both Heaven and Hell, trying to prevent a cosmic calamity. I found myself racing through the book in a few hours, completely caught up in the relentless drive of the narrative.

What I really liked about the book was the pitch-perfect evocation of Sam through the first-person narration. Honest and self-deprecating, he wins your trust early on. But we see things only through his eyes. Is Kate really innocent? Is Sam right to go against the angels themselves? We can’t know these things, we have to wait for events to unfold to find out if our fears are realised. And there is a lot of unfolding. Events come thick and fast, nothing is predictable, and the ride takes your breath away.

In short, I loved it and I can’t wait to read the next one! Dead Harvest is published March 2012, but you can pre-order it from Amazon now: