Frightful Friday: The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm

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.

Frightful Friday: Carpathia by Matt Forbeck

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 book is Carpathia by Matt Forbeck:

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (February 28, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0857662023
  • Source: Personal copy

We all know the story of the Titanic right? In the spring of 1912, while making a voyage across the Atlantic, hits a iceberg and meets a tragic end. But what if that wasn’t the end of the tragedy?

Among those on the Titanic are Abe Holmwood, Quin Harker and Lucy Sewald, all bound for the United States to start new lives of their own. A bit of a love triangle exists between this trio; they have been friends forever, Abe and Lucy have been a couple for some time. Yet when the Titanic hits the iceberg, and their lives are in danger, Lucy can’t help but question her feelings for Quin.  Sounds a bit cliche I suppose, but we can’t have a story involving the Titanic without an element of love, right?

In Matt Forbeck’s Carpathia, the victims of the Titanic are rescued by the Carpathia. The survivors of the sinking of the Titanic believe the worst is over. Yet little do they know, their terror has just begun.  For within the cargo hold of the Carpathia are a group of savage creatures, thirsting for blood. This motley crew of vampires is on their way to the Old Country from the United States. Within them lies turmoil, disagreement lying in their decision to return “home.”

The vampires slink out of the ship’s cargo hold, attacking victims of the Titanic in the water, victims struggling for survival.  Those witnessing the attacks assume the culprits are sharks and while they feel remorse for those that are lost, their fate was determined for them. No one could survive any extended period of time in the frigid, choppy waters.

Ultimately, just over 700 of the Titanic’s passengers are rescued. Once onboard, their lives are still in danger. The vampires hidden in the cargo hold now join the rest of the passengers of the ship, attempting to blend in. Impossible to resist the temptation, they begin attacking not only the survivors of the Titanic, but the passengers of the Carpathia as well.

Abe, Quin & Lucy have an advantage over the other passengers in this fight against the vampires: twenty years ago their parents fought a similar fight. Ardent fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula will recognize the last names of these individuals.

Bottom line, Forbeck does an excellent job of turning a tragic event in history into a completely unique and even more terrifying event.  Most of the terror resides in what the reader believes to have happened for Forbeck does a great deal of the particularly brutal acts “off scene.”  The fact that he successfully weaves one of my favorite classics into the story forces me to appreciate him as a writer even more. Additionally, while I did have some issues with aspects of the story they didn’t deter from my overall feelings about the book. Bottom line: Carpathia is evidence of Forbeck’s talent and genius, a book I recommend wholeheartedly.

 

 

Frightful Friday: Dead Harvest by Chris Holm

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. Feel free to grab the button & join in!

This week’s featured book is Dead Harvest by Chris Holm:

 

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (February 28, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 085766218X
  • Source: Personal copy

Sam Thorton is a Collector…of lost souls. His job requires him to collect the souls of the damned in order to ensure their delivery to the proper destination.  His most recent target is Kate, a young woman believed to have slaughtered her entire family.  For the first time, Sam believes he’s been assigned to collect on an innocent person.  His refusal to follow through with this job begins a war of biblical proportions with a host of supernatural beings, including angels and demons. Sam is not only forced to evade the grasp of the local police, who believe he’s freed a murderous psychopath, but a second Collector sent to perform the task Sam was unable to complete.

I found it nearly impossible to believe that this is Holm’s debut novel. It is a perfect marriage between urban fantasy and crime fiction.  On first glance, one would assume that this sort of combination of genres would be impossible to perform without ending up with a hot mess, a literary “whoops.” Not in this case, a true testament to Holm’s skillful writing. Not a lengthy novel in the least, but it really packs a punch. This is a book that I guarantee you will read in one sitting, you will root for Sam, hoping that he is able to save Kate’s soul.

Alongside the main storyline, the reader also is rewarded with a glimpse into Sam’s history, the actions that put in place his role as a collector. Always a man just out to do what is best, he’s punished eternally for his actions. Because of this, his outward appearance is that of a real badass, but he truly has a soft & caring heart inside. I’m thrilled that this book isn’t the last we’ll read of Sam, for Holm has created a completely engaging and addictive character. I simply cannot wait for more. Highly, Highly recommended.

Oh! I’d be remiss not to mention the awesomeness that is the cover of this book! Don’t you just love the vintage look & feel? Ok, I digress. Still…go out and buy this book. You won’t regret it.