“Season of the Harvest” – by Michael R. Hicks

Cover ImageWhat if the biggest conspiracy, the ultimate danger to the human race was in the very food we eat?

Season of the Harvest is not really a cautionary tale about the dangers of genetically modified food, although it did have me thinking about the disturbing possibilities of using agriculture as a weapon – a very unpleasant thought. More-so, this novel is a completely fantastical tale which could have sprung into being after the author was reading an article about genetically modified food and asked “What if..?”. The result is a page-turning thriller describing a conspiracy that goes all the way up and quite a bit beyond.

Our main character, Special Agent Jack Dawson, is introduced as the friend of an FBI agent killed in the line of duty. His close friendship with the victim makes it impossible for his superiors to keep him out of the case and the subsequent death of another friend turns him into the prime suspect. Suddenly a career FBI agent is on the run from his own government and from there we follow him “down the rabbit hole”. I picked that phrase intentionally because the author uses it a few times throughout the novel and as apt as it may be, it bothered me after a couple of repetitions. I enjoyed the character although he was a bit too perfect for me: amazing analytical mind, a strong tactician, soft and cuddly on the inside. He was more a fantasy that a real human. This didn’t really detract from the excitement of the story, but I did feel like it might be nice if he had a few flaws.

Naomi Perrault is the super-duper smart genetic engineer transformed into purveyor of little-green-men conspiracies. She is the initial target of investigations and that most used of conspiracy thriller devices – the “is-she-isn’t-she” criminal. I did like Perrault’s character. Although she had a touch of the super-human feel like Jack, I felt she exhibited a little more humanity, made a few more mistakes. A few other characters add varying levels of interest to the story and even our agent killed in the first chapter has a surprising longevity in the story.

The plot uses quite a few conspiracy thriller tropes: hero to hunted, kidnapped to converted, all-the-way-up collusion and desperate race against time. However, the author executes it all well and I felt immersed in the mystery, revelation and then non-stop action. There were very few punches pulled, the author unafraid to push the action to the extreme. Some of it felt a little over-the-top but it certainly didn’t stop the pages turning for me. Even the nature of the conspiracy itself was intriguing and I appreciated that the author didn’t feel the need to turn a great premise for a science fiction thriller into a lecture on the evils of genetically modified foods.

So what didn’t I like?

Firstly, I wasn’t overly fond of the romance between the main characters. It felt a little off given the content of the story. I didn’t believe it and I didn’t see how it added anything to the plot. I felt subjected to an artificial rule that handsome action man hero needs to end up with beautiful genius geneticist. It didn’t leave me dry heaving in the gutter or anything equally dramatic, but I could have lived quite happily without it.

Secondly, our dead agent plants a crucial piece of information for our heroes in a coded file. This, in itself, made perfect sense. However, the manner in which it was encoded was absurd. It nicely filled the password cracking trope that works quite well in a thriller and it obviously exercised the author to produce so many loosely linked puzzle pieces for the decoding, but I can’t believe anyone, regardless of the level of genius, could devise such a complex passkey in only a minute or two under extreme pressure.

Lastly, a small one. Having two separate characters refer to a “special place in Hell” being reserved for them is a mistake. For me, it temporarily replaced both characters with the author – something you never want to experience. It was only fleeting, but made enough of an impression that I felt the need to point it out.

Season of the Harvest is not actually a standalone novel; the sequel, Bitter Harvest has recently been released. For those who like standalone books I would not advise against this novel as it could easily be read by itself. There is resolution and although there is a hint of more to come, it’s only a hint. Of course for those who like trilogies, two books are already available, so dive in. I’ve already put the second book on my wish list.

I liked this Season of the Harvest. It was exciting and demonstrated to me that using the formula of genre is not necessarily a bad thing. There were one or two misses along the way, but overall it was an enjoyable ride and I would recommend it to those who like conspiracy thrillers – especially those that don’t mind a big helping of science fiction in the mix.

Rating: 4/5

Price at the time of review: $2.99 US

Available: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Diesel

Author site: http://authormichaelhicks.com/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10448215-season-of-the-harvest

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