The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Sam Thornton has had many run-ins with his celestial masters, but he’s always been sure of his own actions. However, when he’s tasked with dispatching the mythical Brethren – a group of former Collectors who have cast off their ties to Hell – is he still working on the side of right?”
I’m amused by how quickly I took to this series, given that it leans heavily towards noir fiction even though it’s technically paranormal fantasy. Sam lived during the early decades of the twentieth century, and I think that Holm has managed to keep that feel in Sam’s personality. It gives him a set of values and ethics that aren’t quite what we hold to in this day and age, but I find that it makes him more likeable.
On the other hand, part of this novel deals with Sam’s growing comfort with breaking those values. The biggest one of these is his determination to only use recently dead bodies as his “vehicles”. Initially, he does this to avoid traumatizing a hapless human, but in this book he realizes that a living body is more convenient, and thus he starts using them more and more. This brings up some interesting ethical dilemmas—namely, is this a matter of expedience, or is he losing his humanity after so many decades as a Collector?
The flashbacks in this episode center around Sam’s first job as a Collector, a job that turns out to be wonderfully twisted. It also underscores some of Sam’s possible loss of humanity, even at that early stage, with some of his choices of action. I couldn’t decide which part of the novel I liked better between the flashbacks and the current storyline, because believe me, in this case the past is just as intriguing as the present.
The other thing that this novel does well, in both the past and the “now”, is explore the relationship between Sam and Lillith. While Holm has gone into this at various points in the other novels, showing both their first meeting and the events of this novel bookend the plot arc of their interactions really well. If this book shows you the inhumanity in Sam, it also gives you a glimpse of Lillith’s humanity. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a love story, however, because it’s something different than that.
I do hope that Holm keeps writing stories about Sam, because I appreciate reading a novel with a complex and sometimes flawed hero who nevertheless continues to strive for goodness. The Big Reap is both a fun adventure and a subtle reflection on what it means to be human—or humane.
Series: The Collector
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page Count: 384
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Read an excerpt