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Dead Harvest  - Chris F. Holm ”What happens when a collector reaches the breaking point?”
“They go mad. They begin to enjoy the work. They delight in their role. They bury their humanity so deep, they can’t even hear its screams. And eventually, their soul just withers and dies. You wanna know what’s worse than being damned? Allowing your soul to be snuffed out, just erased from the record books like it never was. There is no greater punishment in existence and no greater crime, than being party to your own eradication. It’s as if you’re admitting that all you’ve touched, all you’ve done, everything you’ve seen, is for nothing. to choose oblivion is to turn your back on God. There is no greater betrayal. And once you do that, all that’s left of you is a monster.”

Sam Thornton was colossally screwed. He did some bad things to help someone he loved and his black tinged soul was collected. Not a pleasant thing having your soul ripped out of your chest, but to further compound his suffering he is pressed into service to become a collector of dark souls. If he had any moral issues they are put aside as the BLACK surrounding the souls of those he is sent to collect make it clear that they have earned their appointment with the collector. He prefers slipping into the bodies of the recently dead while collecting souls. He can slip into the bodies of the living as well, but the endless screaming in his head of the living soul trying to reassert control is...well...annoying.

All is going well, 90 years walking the earth, most of that time spent working as a collector until he reaches in to grab the soul of a teenage girl named Kate MacNeil, who slaughtered her family in spectacular fashion, and instead of the darkness of a normal collection he finds a soul bright, shiny, and untainted with sin. He can’t take the soul and by refusing to do so finds himself in the uncomfortable role of protector of the innocent, not part of his job description.

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He has a smoldering, sexy boss from HELL, Lilith. That first wife of Adam that no one wants to talk about. She gives him his marching orders and leaves him puddled with desire and self-loathing. She is puzzled at Sam’s reticence in refusing to collect the soul. A war is brewing between angels and demons, in no small part because Sam has mucked things up, and Sam and Kate are right in the middle of the shit storm.

”Lilith approaches me then, and draped one arm around my neck, pulling me in close. Her body pressed against mine, and my head swam with the scent of her, all jasmine and spice and sex. I clenched shut my eyes to steady myself, but it wasn’t any use. As her lips brushed against my ear, she spoke.
This vessel suits you, Collector--we could have some fun with it, don’t you think? It’s a pity they will flay it alive for what you’ve done. And who knows? Perhaps I’ll see you then. One way or another, I think I’d like to hear this body scream.”

With a boss like that who needs homicidal co-workers or indifferent angels or vengeful demons...oh yeah he has those too. Because an innocent soul has never been damned before he has difficulty convincing either side that Kate; and by proxy himself, have been set up. A demon friend of his, Merihem, explains the situation.

”Do you think either side wants a war? When last it happened one-third of our number fell--and all because a son of fire refused to kneel before a son of clay. You couldn’t begin to understand the world of shit that would rain down upon us all if one of our kind was caught damning an innocent soul to rot in hell for an eternity.”

Things go from bad to worse and just when you think you have a handle on where the plot is going Chris F. Holm drops a beautiful twist into the blender and you, the reader, find yourself slack jawed with a buzzing in your ears like a grenade just went off in the room.

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Angry Robot Publishing has been on the periphery of my awareness for some time. They get style points for their cover designs. This one has a smudged and scratched appearance, despite being brand new, as if the book is a decade old and has been through the hands of several readers. It looks like a book that has been sliding around with a bunch of well thumbed porno magazines and greasy fast food containers for a couple of thousand miles in the cab of an eighteen wheeler or been left splayed open on the community lunch table of a factory for a month. They have several really interesting looking series they are publishing and I for one intend to check each and every one of them out. You can continue to be square by not reading an Angry Robot Book or you can come join the cool kids, and when I say cool I mean the nerds, and find out for yourself what little gems are waiting for you in this publisher’s catalog.