The Harvesting Series, Book 1
Genre: Horror/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Steampunk Press
Number of pages: 394
Word Count: 71000
Cover Artist: Michael Hall Photography
When mankind finally consumes itself, can any spark of humanity survive? Layla fights to keep those she loves alive when the zombie apocalypse unfolds, but she soon learns that zombies are not the only problem. With mankind silenced, those beings living on the fringe seek to reclaim power. Layla must learn who to trust, fast, if she hopes to save what is left of our kind.
“This is a Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. Most policemen use this gun. Comes with 17 rounds. You pop in the cartridge like this and . . .” Grandma squeezed the trigger, blasting a decorative plate with a picture of fruit on it. It used to hang in the dining room. Ignoring my astonished impression, she handed the gun to me. “Didn’t you go hunting with the Campbells?"“Yes. I can shoot a gun, Grandma,” I said bewildered. Why in the hell did my grandmother have a semi-automatic pistol? We were standing behind the barn. She had guns laid out on the lid of an old feed barrel. I set the gun down.“Good, good, then you’ll have no problem. Now, this is .44 Magnum, like the Dirty Harry movie. It has good stopping power. Lift up the safety and boom,” Grandma said pulling the trigger. The gun barrel let out a resounding noise, shattering Grandma’s old mantle-piece vase. “The man told Grandma this is a kill-shot gun, very powerful,” she said and set the gun down.I picked it up, took aim at an old porcelain figurine, and fired. The smiling cherub exploded into a puff of dust.“Very good! Ahh, here we are,” she said picking up what looked like a machine gun. “This is Colt 9mm sub-machine gun. Grandma had a hard time getting this one, but a nice man on the phone, of course he was Russian, helped Grandma get this one ordered for you. This gun can shoot almost 1000 rounds per minute. Very fast, no?” Grandma said and launched a spray of bullets toward the remaining china pieces she had set up on the fence-post. “Here, you try. Watch for kick back,” she said and handed the gun to me.I set the gun down and took Grandma by the hands. “Grandma, what in the hell is going on? You’re scaring me.”“Shoot first,” she said, picking the Colt back up and handing it to me.I sighed. The gun, surprisingly, didn’t feel heavy in my hands. I held it as I had observed Grandma doing, and as every drug smuggler on T.V. had done, and let off an easy rattle of ammo.“You see, very easy.”I set the gun back down. “That is enough, Grandma. Please. What is happening?”Grandma inhaled deeply and took me by the chin. She looked into my eyes and then kissed me on both cheeks. “First, we’ll put guns away,” she said, picking up the weapons. “Oh, I also bought grenades. Just like on T.V.: pull the pin, throw, it explodes.”“Grenades?”After we had restocked Grandma’s personal arsenal, we went back inside.“Sit down in living room. Watch T.V. I’ll make tea,” she said and wandered into the kitchen.“But Grandma—““Tu-tu-tu,” she said to shush me. “You watch T.V. I’ll come in a minute.”I flipped on the T.V. to find it turned on the news channel. At once I saw what appeared to be a riot taking place. At first it looked like just another scene of violence, but then I started reading the crawling banners: wide-spread outbreak and rioting in major US cities in the south and on the west coast. Police had instituted martial law in LA, Miami, and Atlanta. Outbreak reports were cropping up in all major US and foreign cities. Airlines had closed all international travel. The United States President has been moved to a protected location.The T.V. buzzed with three loud chimes: the Emergency Broadcast System had been activated. The screen went blue and after a few minutes, an official looking White House spokesman appeared at a podium, the emblem of the CDC hanging behind him.“Grandma? You should come see this,” I called to her. I felt like someone had poured cold water down my back. Every hair on the back of my neck was standing on its end. Is this what Grandma had foreseen? Is this why I was here? Did the spirits tell her something?“At this point it appears to be a highly contagious flu-like pandemic,” the Director of the CDC was saying.“Citizens are urged to stay inside their homes. Military personnel have been dispatched to major US cities,” the White House spokesman added.A reporter asked why the pandemic seemed to happen almost overnight. I noticed then that the press were all wearing surgical masks.“Incidents of flu have been steadily on the rise for the last one week which has exacerbated accurate diagnosis. The symptoms of this particular strain resemble seasonal flu at the onset—body pain, fever, and vomiting—but gradually worsen with additional non-normative symptoms,” the Director of the CDC explained.“Non-normative? What does that mean, and how is it being spread?” a female reporter asked. I recognized her from the President’s regular Press Club. I’d seen her in person once at a downtown café. She’d been eating a massive plate of fries.The Director of the CDC gave a side-long look toward the White House spokesman. “Citizens should avoid direct physical contact with the sick until we can pin-point the cause,” the CDC Director said at last.“Is there a vaccine or immunization?” another reporter asked.“Until the cause is identified, it is difficult to develop a vaccine, but we are working around the clock analyzing possible contaminants,” the Director replied.“What is the mortality rate?” someone asked.The Director of the CDC looked uncomfortable. “It is difficult to ascertain. At this point the mortality rate appears to be 100%, but post-mortem there appears to be brain activity-”“No further questions at this time,” the White House spokesperson said with a scowl and ushered the Director of the CDC out of the room.Grandma sat down beside me, setting a serving tray on the coffee table. She picked up the remote and muted the T.V.In the far off distance, we heard the alarm on the town fire hall wail. It was used to call in emergency volunteer fighter-fighters and medical personnel or to warn of tornado. Three rings to call for help. Seven rings for tornado warning. The alarm wailed and did not stop.“When I was 12 years old, my grandma knew I had the sight,” my grandmother began. “My mother only had the gift a little. She had, what you call, good instincts, but she never heard the spirits. I was lucky. I was born with the mark of the bear,” she said, showing me the small birthmark on her knee shaped like a bear’s paw, “so everyone knew I would have the gift. But when I was 12, my grandmother sat me down in her living room and poured me a cup of tea,” she said as she poured me a cup. I noticed that she had placed two slices of a strange looking mushroom in the water. “My grandmother told me, while I was lucky to hear the spirits, there are other things in this world, some good, some evil. There exists spirits, demons, creatures who are not like us. She wanted me to see them. She wanted me to be safe from them. She said that until the great eye inside is awake, we do not see them. She said, you must awaken and see. That is what my grandmother told me as she handed me a cup of tea,” my grandma said and then handed the mushroom laden tea to me.I took the cup. I looked back to the T.V. and saw strange images of people in hospital gowns being shot by armored military service.“Drink,” Grandma encouraged.I did as she asked, polishing off the cup.“My grandma loved me. She tried to protect me by making me see the otherworld. She was right. Afterward, I saw and heard spirits and those other things in this world. This has kept me away from evil and has helped me see good. Did you know there are forest spirits living right behind our house? Ehh, anyway, my grandma loved me, so she made me see. I drank the tea then slept for almost two days. When I woke, I could see.”My head felt woozy. Images on the screen melted into a strange haze. I reached out for my grandmother.“You sleep now. I’ll go close the fence and bar up the doors. It has already begun,” she said.“What has begun?” I asked drunkenly. The room spun, and I felt like I might be sick.“The harvest,” she said. I heard the front door open and close, and then everything went black.
The Harvesting by Melanie Karsak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Surprisingly, this turned out not to be the average, run of the mill, zombie apocalypse novel. It turned out to be so much more. This book was very well written, and had a lightning fast pace that started on page one and continued all the way through the end of the book. If you love "The Walking Dead," this book is definitely for you!
The story starts with Layla, the MC, receiving a cryptic phone call from her psychic Grandmother, demanding that she return home at once from her out-of-state job. Layla arrives to find that her Grandmother has been frantically stockpiling and barricading for what looks like World War III. She refuses to give Layla a clear answer of what is going on, and instead just tells her to wait - she will find out soon enough. Within a couple of days there are strange news reports surfacing of a killer flu-type virus that is leading to very strange occurrences across the world. Thus begins the Zombie Apocalypse.
I was really sad right off the bat that Layla's Grandmother did not play a more prominent character in the book. She was eccentric and outspoken - a very interesting woman. Plus, she was obviously very gifted psychically. I would have liked to see her around a little longer to help guide Layla into her newfound "powers." Although, I guess the whole "sink or swim" method for Layla did make the story more interesting.
This book had everything it seemed like! Not only was it about a kick-ass female character that was completely capable of taking on the undead all by herself, it also contained a healthy dose of mysticism and fantasy with Forest Spirits that revealed themselves to Layla, and with other elements of the paranormal and supernatural that reveal themselves later in the book. **NO SPOILERS**
Layla ends up finding out that she alone is responsible for the fate of the friends and loved ones in her town. She must find a way to be their leader and their protector, all while learning as she goes. This leads to many suspense filled and anxiety inducing scenarios. Will she manage to save everyone? Or will she fail and lose everyone that she loves?
I also loved the little love triangle that developed between Layla and her ex-fiancé Ian and Ian's brother, Jamie. I was team Jamie the whole way. Ian just seemed like too much of a screw-up. However, I did love the little redeeming twist for Ian at the end of the book. It kind of brought everything full circle. I hope that we see more of Layla, Jamie, and the crew in the next novel in this series. It was kind of abrupt how it jumped from their story into another. Overall, I loved this book and can't wait to see where it goes next, and whether or not humanity can survive all the horrors that the apocalypse has in store!
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About the Author:
Melanie Karsak, steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, resides in Florida with her husband and two children. Visit the author at her blog, melaniekarsak.blogspot.com, to learn more about upcoming projects.
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