Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.
This week’s featured title is The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm:
- Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Angry Robot (July 30, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 0857663429
- Source: Publisher
*Note: This is the third book in a series. The review below may contain spoilers if you have not yet read the previous books*
Sam is a collector of lost souls, requiring him to collect the souls of the damned in order to ensure their delivery to the proper destination. He’s rid the world of some pretty horrific creatures and his most recent job presents him with an even more difficult challenge: hunting down the Brethren, a group of eight former collectors responsible for evoking vast devastation on mankind. As he embarks on this journey, the storyline flashes back to Sam’s first collection: Hitler. This was a risky and interesting path but boy, did it pan out.
I was worried the flashbacks would interrupt the flow of the current storyline but found it actually enhanced it. Readers got a glimpse of Sam as a “young” and naive collector and followed him as he learned the skills required to be a successful collector (i.e. possessing the bodies of other humans). Then, when the storyline shifts to present time, readers see just how far Sam has come in his life as a collector. The plot in each of the settings are equally captivating and intense so the reader isn’t really losing anything in the time shifts.
The Big Reap, the first two book in this series, is jam packed with intense action but what really makes this novel stand out is Holm’s truly brilliant writing. Whether it be a steamy description of Sam’s handler, Lilith, or a battle scene with a horrific monster, Holm truly has a way with words. His incredibly descriptive writing allows readers to feel as though they a part of the story, the scenes and setting taking shape before one’s eyes. The scene that had my glasses fogging is the following, in which Sam sees Lillith for the very first time:
She was, it shames to me to say so soon after selling my soul to save the love of my life, the most stunning woman I’d ever seen. And apparently, I wasn’t the only one to find her so - even the radio in the other room had fallen silent upon her arrival. Her eyes glinted emerald and onyx, somehow suggesting throaty laughs and whispered secrets and traded glances from across a crowded room that led wordlessly to clothes discarded and limbs tangled in passion. Her cheeks and shoulders were dusted with freckles, and the sultry scent of sun-warmed skin clung to her, as if she’d wandered through a summer orchard on her way to these bleak environs. Her hair tumbled lustrous red across her shoulders in undulating waves and curls, the last of which on either side curved to frame her perfect breasts, which seemed to ever-so-slightly strain the mere molecules of silk that attempted to contain them. And her lips, painted the color of fresh blood, were so sensuous – so transfixing – I couldn’t help but wonder what foolhardy acts men had perpetrated with the hopes of kissing them, of tasting her breath, of simply seeing them smile.
Hot, right!? Yet Holm’s talented writing goes beyond writing sultry descriptions into truly complex and intense scenes throughout the novel. I imagine him writing many of these scenes, wondering if he realized the moment he wrote them just how brilliant they are?
Additionally, another unique aspect of this series is how Holms so easily and so naturally weaves in a bit of philosophical/social commentary. It isn’t forced or out of place, but flows naturally within the storyline. A key message The Big Reap is the concept of forgiveness. While it isn’t pervasive, it clearly plays a role in Sam’s existence.
Sam, as a character, is vastly complex and tremendously well-developed. This novel in particular provides readers with a far deeper and intimate glimpse into his character. Sure, he’s a big, tough, brute of a man but, despite losing his soul, Sam hasn’t lost track of his human morals and beliefs.
By far, the best thing about this series is the fact that is crosses so many genres, nearly impossible to classify it into just one. While the supernatural aspect is present, Holm’s own history is in writing horror so there are elements of that genre that are present. Honestly, I don’t think there is a reader out there who wouldn’t appreciate the sheer brilliance contained within this series. Highly, highly recommended.