Season of the Harvest, by Michael R. Hicks
February 6, 2011
At a genetics lab where a revolutionary strain of wonder food crops is being developed, FBI Special Agent Jack Dawson’s best friend and fellow agent, Sheldon Crane, is brutally murdered. The killer was looking for very special seeds that Jack’s friend had taken from the lab, and tore his body apart trying to find them…
Jack is convinced that Naomi Perrault, the beautiful geneticist who leads a group of suspected eco-terrorists, is behind the murder. But when FBI agents who aren’t quite who they claim to be show up on Jack’s doorstep after a bomb devastates the FBI lab in Quantico, destroying the evidence from his friend’s murder, Naomi becomes Jack’s only hope of survival.
Framed for murder and confronted by the terrifying truth of what the genetically engineered seeds stolen by his friend are truly for, Jack joins Naomi in a desperate battle across half the globe to save humanity from extermination…
There is a hell of a mess in Special Agent Sheldon Crane’s kitchen. Every single box, jar, bottle, and takeout container has been emptied, sifted on the counter, and wiped carelessly onto the floor. The intruder even hacked up a frozen roast looking for something very small. SA Jack Dawson is a veteran analyst with the FBI, and the question of what the perpetrator was looking for (and therefore, what has gotten his friend killed) is on his mind. But, who tossed the home weighs heavier on the agent in the moment than why, because what he sees is impossible. There are no voids in the pile of food in the kitchen, nor footprints marking how the intruder left after he was done with his search. And, this is the second crime scene he’s seen in 24 hours apparently left behind by a ghost.
Season of the Harvest begins with a prologue introducing the reader to the genetically modified food industry. For those who’ve never looked further into agriculture than the produce section of their grocery store, the seed business is a multi-billion dollar per year industry and its secrets are fiercely guarded. This fact is borne out in Season’s first chapter, which shows SA Sheldon Crane in a dire situation. Succumbing to a paralyzing neurotoxin, Crane takes measures to protect four kernels of corn he has stolen from a genetics lab, dropping them onto the repeater of his Glock’s magazine before reloading the .40 caliber rounds. He then swallows the rest of the seeds, hoping that when his pursuer find them, those in the gun will go unnoticed until the lab in Quantico, Virginia finds them in evidence.
Crane’s break-in to the lab sets off a chain reaction. The race to protect the world’s last untouched-by-science seed vault pits a small group of geniuses branded eco-terrorists against paramilitary troops employed by a genetics lab, which is in turn subsidized by the U.S. government. Led by Jack Dawson, now a rogue agent on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, and Naomi Perrault, a long missing genetics researcher, the “terrorists” take risks to discover what danger lurks in Crane’s precious kernels and stop the manufacturer before they can unleash it on an unsuspecting world.
Michael R. Hicks has an engaging style marked by tight prose and smooth verbiage well suited to the Sci-Fi Thriller genre. He builds his scenes with as few words as necessary, and while I’m not a fan of using dialog to communicate plot details, Mr. Hick’s scenes rarely seem to be forced for the reader’s benefit. The scenes transition cleanly between each other and the hand offs between Points of View (POVs) are clear. In regards to the voice, he gives each POV a distinctive voice. (The scene told by Alexander, Dawson’s cat impressed me.) Mr. Hicks is also very good about keeping his characters in character. I kept waiting for something to happen between Jack and Naomi, two people who deserve, and would benefit from, a few minutes of naughtiness, but they remain true to the genes Hicks gave them in the beginning. Jack and Naomi have pressing problems and personal issues…like exhaustion, personal baggage, and something unpleasant lurking in their underground bunker just to start.
As a sci-fi thriller, there’s a lot of action, cut into nice bite-size chunks by witty banter and scenes of key players executing their part of the storyline, from the federal officials all the way down to an amorphous mass in Naomi’s lab. Season of the Harvest, which the author says was born out of a joke made by his wife, is an entertaining, thought-provoking blend of motifs from popular commercial works, most notably the X-Files. The story reminded me of several as I progressed through it…Dan Brown’s Deception Point and the film Long Kiss Goodnight, to name just two. And I would bet a Snickers bar that Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s novel Relic is on Mr. Hick’s bookshelf. In addition to sharing several plot factors, Season’s first scene takes place in Lincoln, Nebraska, and has a character named “Preston.”
I enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to any fan of made-for-Syfy disaster/creature films. And if you’re a fan of grandiose battle scenes, there’s one in this book that might impress Michael Bay.