sj has been trying to get me to read Chris Holm’s Collector series for almost three years now. And it’s not that I didn’t want to, or that I didn’t trust her recommendation (she has yet to steer me wrong). I just had a ton of other stuff I wanted to read (as usual), so I kept putting it off. Then I kind of forgot about it, I guess? BUT THEN sj started talking to me about the new book Chris has coming out in the fall and it reminded me that I really needed to sit down and read everything else he has published…you know, the stuff she had been recommending to me for YEARS. Heh.
So I started reading the series on June 24th and I finished the third book last night. I read them all right in row with nothing in between–BAM, BAM, BAM. And as with any really awesome book(s) that I kept putting off, I had to ask myself (and sj),
‘WTF TOOK ME SO LONG?!’
Seriously, I don’t know why I waited so long to read them. They are so frickin’ good.
And how cool are those covers?! Very, very cool, indeed.
So here’s what they’re about:
Sam Thornton is a soul Collector for Hell (it’s nothing personal). There are two types of souls Sam is tasked with collecting–those of the people who committed some heinous act(s) and deserve to be in Hell, and those of the people who made deals with the Devil. Sam was a regular guy once. He was a good guy. But he made a deal with the Devil (for a very good reason), and was made a Collector after his soul was collected by another. Sam is still a good guy, he’s just a good guy who made some bad choices and would up in Hell because of it. Now he’s a Collector with a conscience, which doesn’t work out so well for him.
In Dead Harvest, Sam is tasked with collecting the soul of a girl who just murdered her entire family. Unfortunately for Sam, as he finds out when he touches the girl’s soul, the girl is an Innocent. Collecting the soul of an Innocent is not only morally wrong, it would also break the truce between Heaven and Hell and start a war that would likely destroy Mankind in the process. So instead of collecting her soul, Sam takes the girl and runs. And then he has to go through all kinds of sh*t before he can prove to everyone involved that he’s done the right thing. There are a couple of issues with this first book that prevented me from giving it 5/5 stars (I gave it 4), but each subsequent book gets better, and at least one of the things I took issue with in this book gets explained in another of the books, so good on Chris.
In The Wrong Goodbye, the soul that Sam has collected and interred goes missing before his Deliverants can take it to Hell. That’s a bad deal. Turns out someone from Sam’s past stole the soul for a VERY BAD REASON. So not only are Sam’s Deliverants after him for the soul that he was supposed to have collected and interred, he also has to find the soul so that it can’t fulfill its intended purpose. Someone else from Sam’s past shows up in this book, as does the Sausage King of Chicago. And the pop culture references in this one gave me all the smiles.
(Aside: I was having a hard time deciding on the genre of the series while I was filling out my reading spreadsheet. They’re not totally horror, and they’re not really urban fantasy, and they’re definitely not speculative fiction. They’re very noir-ish…kind of detective/crime fiction-y with a (major) fantastical twist? But lo and behold, at the end of this book there is an essay that Chris wrote specifically in answer to the question of the series’ genre. FANTASTICAL NOIR. That is the term Chris coined to describe these books, and it is perfect. Fantastical Noir, yes.)
The Big Reap creeped me out the most. Mr. Holm has one twisted imagination [shudders]. This book is the most disturbing book in the series, and also the most philosophical. It gets pretty deep without getting the least bit preachy. I like that. In this one, Sam goes up against the Nine–a group of…things…that are introduced in The Wrong Goodbye. Of the three books in the series, this one was the hardest to read, just for the yuck factor. It includes some of my favorite lines of the whole series, though (he had backhands to spare, y’all). ALSO, this one tells even more about Sam’s past and describes his first collection, which happens to be his MOST SERIOUS/BIGGEST/BADDEST (normal) collection thus far. And again Chris comes with the awesome pop culture (and literary) references.
Listen, these books are both disgusting and delightful. They’re sometimes depressing and frequently hilarious. There are demons and angels and things I can’t describe that make me [GAG]. There are meat suits and bugs and OMG I ALMOST FORGOT TO TALK ABOUT LILITH.
I haven’t yet mentioned that all Collectors have handlers, and Sam’s handler is Lilith. You know, the Lilith who was made from the earth to be Adam’s first wife in Paradise, who refused to be subservient so was cast out of Paradise and became one of the Fallen. THAT Lilith. And, oh, how well Chris writes and develops Lilith. She is the best character in the book next to Sam. I love her. You will love her. She’s great.
And I really want more…I see a reread in my future.
So, yeah, if you’re into this kind of thing, read this series. You won’t be disappointed.