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The Harvest
Scott Nicholson
Pinnacle Books, 384 pages

The Harvest
Scott Nicholson
Scott Nicholson is a journalist living in the mountains of North Carolina. He's author of the Appalachian Gothic thrillers The Harvest and The Red Church. He's sold over 40 stories, some of which were collected in Thank You For The Flowers. He studied creative writing at the University of North Carolina and Appalachian State University. Nicholson has worked as a journalist, radio announcer, dishwasher, carpenter, house painter, and baseball card shop owner. Nicholson operates a writer's website at

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Tamara Leon once ignored the Gloomies, which is what she calls the eerie premonitions that haunt her once in awhile. The price she paid was the loss of her father. Now, much older and married, the Gloomies are extracting their own price on her life. She doesn't want to ignore them. In fact, she can't since they are a near constant whisper in her head, but her husband's refusal to believe in them is ruining their marriage.

What she senses is more than just a premonition, it's the arrival of a being from outer space, one whose sole purpose in existing is to eat. Anything organic, anything that lives is its idea of a tasty snack. It has put out many tendrils, and it kills and possesses the humans it comes across, turning them into zombie-like creatures and sending them out for prey of their own. They transfer the sludge to their victims, who in turn become creatures of the alien. Will Tamara and the group of unlikely heroes she gatherers around her -- Bill, a contractor, Chester, a farmer, and even a shady land developer -- realize the threat in time to stop it before it devours the world?

Scott Nicholson calls it an alien campfire tale, and that's exactly what it is. A story meant to be told in the dark, the reassuring glow of the fire not quite enough to make you ignore the rustling sounds in the bushes behind you. He certainly shows an understanding of how to play upon our fears by creating an other-worldly monster without any real ambition. That is, it's not an alien that really wants or even expects anything special from us, it just wants to eat, and it disregards anything we might say on the matter in much the same way a butcher ignore a chicken's clucking. I am not someone who creeps out easy, but if I find myself thinking that I'll never look at a smear of sludgy vegetation, such as what we get around here (especially at this time of year), with out tensing my spine and slowly looking around, I know there are a lot of readers who will find themselves thoroughly frightened by the world Nicholson creates for us.

The Harvest is not just a scary book, but one that has some really wonderfully done characterization. We meet a lot of the soon-to-be victims just before they become vegetated, a hunter, a woodsman (not the same things, seriously) and several others. Some we really like, and feel bad for, and for some we actually cheer when the creature gets them. In each case, Nicholson creates a perfect snapshot of characterization, giving us a full feeling for these people, for their lives. A lot of these people are interesting to me because the story is set in the southern Appalachian Mountains, in a town called Windshake, and so we get a lot of the Appalachian mythical sense that Sharyn McCrumb made so popular in her books.

Another aspect I thought worth mentioning is that he plays with other definitions of being alien. We see the growing alienation between Tamara and her spouse, Robert. We also see the alienation of the racial kind, when we meet James, a young man who has come to watch after his elderly Aunt. We see the alienation of a man taken from his culture and placed into an entirely new one, one that he has a hard time accepting even as it has a hard time accepting him. James was once a librarian with the Smithsonian. As one of the very few people of African descent in the town, some of the whites are not accepting of him, not only because he's black, but because -- and I think this would be the case, no matter what his color -- he's an intellectual, a bookworm.

If you decide to read this book, you might want to leave a lamp on when you go to bed, especially if you live out in the woods. In the city, you might be safe... maybe.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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