The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm


To purchase this title, click the cover image.

One of my favorite things about Angry Robot books is that they publish titles that are insanely different from what you see anywhere else.  They bill themselves as purveyors of “sf/f/wtf fiction”, and they’re not kidding.  I’ve loved just about everything I’ve read from their catalog, and The Wrong Goodbye is another great addition to their offerings.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.

Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight and narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.”

Hey, look, it’s a buddy movie!… I mean, book!  What I love about Holm’s Collector novels is that they avoid the most commonly used tropes in fantasy fiction.  The big one, of course, is that the author doesn’t turn his novels into love stories in any way, shape or form.  While there are female characters in both books, the main plot in this one concerns Sam and a criminal in a stolen body who agrees to help him on his quest.  The pair bumbles through several encounters with hapless civilians, law enforcement, and supernatural beings galore.

This leads into the other trope that Holm breaks: Sam isn’t all-powerful, all-knowing, or really all-anything.  He’s a “normal person” (for varying values of “normal”) who makes mistakes, gets hurt, gets confused, and sometimes becomes stuck in events way over his head.  His traveling companions are often as much a hindrance as a help.

I appreciate that Holm didn’t keep his characters away from normal humans and immerse them completely in a world that is foreign to us.  There are some sections in which the supernatural takes center stage, but more often than not, Sam is forced to deal with living people on their terms.  It’s almost impossible to avoid, since he must inhabit a human body to do his work.  I also like that Sam has made a conscious decision to not inhabit a living human body, because that would cause havoc in the person’s life.  Instead, he only takes over dead bodies, which makes interactions with the “real world” rather complicated at times.

Having comfortably settled into his world, Holm can now lead readers on an adventure through both our world and the world beyond.  I love Holm’s creativity and his willingness to not simply follow the herd of current fiction trends.  The Wrong Goodbye is a great novel, filled with adventure and a straightforward storytelling style that makes this book a real treat.

Also by this author: The Big Reap, Dead Harvest

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 16, 2013.

Series: The Collector
ISBN: 9780857662217
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page Count: 400
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Author Website