Book Review: Season of the Harvest – Michael R Hicks

I’ve lived and worked in agriculture for pretty much all of my life. Aside from that short trip to Alpha Centuri to save the universe from Krag the Merciless I can safely say that agriculture is something I have spent a lot of time around and am at least peripherally aware of. Which always makes techno-thrillers and sci-fi books like Season of the Harvest hard to review.

I often wonder if ex-military guys sit down and read a book and think “like we’d ever do that”. I know every scientist would love the GC mass spectrometer that the CSI labs have on TV – nothing like a weeks work being turned into a 5 second task to get scientists hot under the collar. Do police and law enforcement people find it hard to enjoy any book or TV show due to the errors? They have those stairs at booking for a reason, push the guy down them a few times! So many little things that we writers and readers just don’t realise are crap.

In part of my research I found out that one thing that annoys gun nuts enthusiasts is that they hate the smell of muzzle flash being described as “cordite”. You see cordite hasn’t been used in bullet manufacturing for a long time, subsequently a writer describing the smell of cordite after a gun battle is showing ignorance. Clearly never having the need to use a gun to shoot random people is a major character failing in writers.

But are they showing ignorance? This is fiction after all.

To most readers describing that post-gunshot smell as cordite elicits the correct sensory appreciation. Gun powder, ho hum; cordite, ah-hah specific smell! For CSI we know that a case that would normally take months and go through several different investigators and result in absolutely none of the CSI team needing to shoot anyone, has to be wrapt up by your show’s stars in the 42 minute show time.

So really the research and reality of the writing or show only has to be enough to move the plot and characters forward. This is fiction after all.

As a result I can say that I really enjoyed Michael’s novel. He kept up a cracking pace and kept a very tightly woven narrative. At one point about three quarters of the way into the book I remember thinking “there is no way they can get out of this one”. So much tension!

This was a nice mix of sci-fi and thriller and reminded me a lot of James Rollins. This is especially since there are similar themes to Rollins’ novel The Doomsday Key. Just imagine that with aliens!

This brings me to my two criticisms of the book, remember I really enjoyed this book. The first was the narrative structure: it was very well done up until about halfway through when more points of view started to be included. Nothing wrong with that but it broke from the flow established earlier on. Having the cat have a point of view for a scene was my shark jumpy moment. The second point is about agriculture: why don’t people research agriculture when writing instead of listening to scare-mongers and political groups? I know why, it makes for a much more thrilling read than saying “we’ve doubled world population, have less farming land, and yet we still fed the world, yay us!” I guess it would just be nice to have someone say “you rock” rather than “you shouldn’t use chemicals” once in a while.

I guess the real CSI guys might be also dreaming of magical lab equipment too.

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