August 22, 2013

Everybody Out of the Dead Pool: a review of Chris F. Holm's "The Big Reap"

The Big Reap (The Collector Book 3)
by Chris F. Holm
Angry Robot Books (2013)
ISBN13: 9780857663436

I liked Dead Harvest, and I loved The Wrong Goodbye, so I kind of had my hopes up when I started on the first page of the third book of Chris Holm's Collector series, The Big Reap.

Sam Thornton has been collecting souls for so long, hopping in and out of bodies and losing a shred of himself each time he does, that he feels a little less human each day. He's barely human anymore anyway, what with selling his soul to save his tubercular wife and serving eternity as a reaper of wayward souls, but what remains of his humanity feels like it's eroding faster than he had anticipated. The events of the previous two books are finally catching up to him. Now, Lilith has tasked him with hunting down the Brethren, a group of Collectors turned monsters. Their humanity is entirely gone and now that it's been discovered they can be destroyed, that's precisely what Sam has to do.

The novel actually feels like a collection of novellas interluded with flashbacks to one of Sam's first collection jobs during World War II. Through the flashbacks, we get a much richer history of his relationship with Lilith and how he got roped in with her private agenda and manipulations. Any time you can mix up Nazis with the occult, it's a fun time seeing those evil buggers get some supernatural comeuppance. Back to the main story, though. The Brethren, those Collectors gone rogue, serve as a wonderful homage to the famous monsters of classic horror. Each one that Sam has to hunt down is reminiscent of iconic characters like Frankenstein's monster, werewolves, vampires, and even one tentacular adversary I particularly enjoyed.

Given the episodic nature of each mission Sam goes on in this book, along with the flashbacks, the story can feel a bit disjointed, even jarring with how the focus shifts or jumps back and forth. But The Big Reap actually does more to give readers a closer look into Sam Thornton's past than the two previous novels, and the revelations that come about surrounding his roll as a Collector and his allegiances with those close to him just put this book on a new level. It's still great, pulpy action the whole way through, but it feels like the attention to Sam's character development was intensified a good deal.

If you have been keeping up with this series thus far, this third installment will not disappoint. Readers new to the series should be able to get a lot of enjoyment from the story, too. The back story is delivered in drips and drabs that should help newcomers catch up on what's happened already, but you really should check out the first two books to get a full appreciation for the story. Some heartfelt drama amid the horror and hullabaloo make The Big Reap a big standout in the class of 2013. Don't be surprised if it winds up on my favorites of the year in a few months time.


1 comment:

  1. I keep meaning to pick this series up, especially since I love the covers. Hopefully, one day I will get to them.