Michael R. Hicks’ Harvest Series

michael_r_hicksAbout the author:

Born: 1963, Arizona

Education

B.A. –Russian Language, Arizona State University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Website: http://authormichaelhicks.com/

Thriller Sub-genre: Techno-thriller, Sci-fi thriller, horror

Future of the series: Hicks wrote the series as a trilogy and I don’t expect to see anymore additions to the series.

The Simon Review

When I first looked into reading the Harvest series, I was thinking this could be a really cool ecothriller series that focuses on the adverse effects of agricultural GMOs. Well, it is definitely a thriller, but an ecothriller? I don’t think so. Not unless it is remotely possible for GMOs to convert people and animals into hideous aliens that consumes anything in its path, which I am quite confident it is not possible. I would say this is more of a sci-fi-thriller/horror, and I emphasize horror, series that gives a rather skewed version of what GMOs are capable of doing. Now, my feelings on GMOs waver. On one hand, they have provided or could provide great benefits, while on the other hand, they could lead to some big unforeseen problems. It is these problems that make for good thrillers as long as these problems are represented within the realm of real possibilities. As our society becomes immersed in technology, I feel that it is important for fictional writers to bring an awareness to readers the real problematic issues that technology can bring without creating fear tactics, especially in issues that deal with our environment. This means that the science should be represented accurately, and if that is not possible, make it clear to the reader that the science is totally fiction. In general, one would think that most sane folks wouldn’t believe that GMOs could turn humans into some grotesque creature. Or could they? Here are some reviews of the first book in the series, Season of the Harvest, which I found on Goodreads and Amazon that gives me pause, as there are folks out there that believe this is actually remotely possible:

This book is an epic of suspense with very real possibilities.

OR

A wonderfully terrifying tale of a not so far fetched world

OR

This book was outstanding.The characters and the story are really well developed on a theme that could really happen.It causes you to shudder at points and think this is almost too real. 

OR

I loved reading this story, it is so relevant in today’s time and with the controversy over GMO’s. The author has written a believable tale, wrought with just the right amount of tech and guile to raise your hair. A must read for everyone.

As I said, the Harvest series focuses on the use of GMOs to aid an alien species in taking over planet Earth with a vengeance. There are a number of really good heroes throughout the series including the two main characters, FBI agent Jack Dawson and geneticist Naomi Perrault, as well as all of the cats in the world, which turn out to be natural alien detectors. The series is not for the faint at heart, as there is a lot of gore with either human beings being eaten or aliens exploding. So much so, that I believe the series could have easily been made into a two part series instead of a trilogy, as I could only take so many heads being ripped from their bodies.

For lovers of the horror genre, this is a fun-filled series which I am sure that one will appreciate. The series is written as a trilogy which must be read in order.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series- Season of the Harvest because I thought it had the most interesting plot within the trilogy

Least Favorite Novel in the Series- Reaping the Harvest I was bit burned out by the time I got to this one

What about the science? Hicks uses a lot of techno-speak in his discussion of GMOs and the manipulation of DNA, but only parts of it is realistic. This makes it difficult for those that don’t have a background in science to know what is real and what is not. However, I do applaud Hicks for bringing to light the unscrupulous power that biotech companies wield in dealing with GMOs, as well as the limited amount of government oversight. In the third novel of the series, Reaping the Harvest, Hicks writes in the foreword a very thoughtful essay on these problems. He also points out that he is in support of responsible development of GMOs, which I wholeheartedly agree with.  

The Naomi Perrault Technical Word in Review: Retrovirus– are a unique group of viruses that contain RNA instead of DNA. The virus uses an enzyme known as reverse transcriptase that functions by making DNA from the RNA template of the virus. Once a retrovirus invades a cell, it injects its RNA along with the reverse transcriptase and other enzymes into the cell. The reverse transcriptase will then make DNA from the virus RNA, and then using another retroviral enzyme known as integrase, insert the virus DNA into the DNA of the cellular host.  Once the DNA is inserted into the host, the DNA is now known as a provirus, and will use the cell’s molecular machinery to make more copies of itself. For as long as the cell lives, it will carry the virus.

The most famous retrovirus is HIV. Once HIV infects a host, its genetic material hides within the genome of the host, an immune cell known as a CD4 T cell, and is then protected from the immune system. The HIV provirus can lie dormant for years before it decides to replicate itself within the cell. AIDS occurs when the virus induces the cell into a programmed cell death known as pyroptosis which is believed to occur through a number of different mechanisms.

Retroviruses are also known to cause cancer. Sometimes when a retrovirus inserts its DNA into our genome, it will insert it into a region that disrupts the cell’s divisional capabilities which can result in the formation of a cancerous cell. One retrovirus that results in cancer is the sexually transmitted virus known as HTLV, Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus. Between 1 in 25 individuals that are infected will develop cancer.

Scientist do use retroviruses to manipulate DNA in cells, however, they are not necessarily the best way to create GMOs, especially in plants. The most commonly used method for getting foreign DNA into a plant cell is to use a bacteria known as Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which is pathogenic to the plant, as it has the ability to transfer its own DNA along with the foreign DNA into the plant cell.

She walked along in silence for a moment before saying, “And the twist is this: embedded in this particular line of crops will be a retrovirus capable of modifying the DNA of the host that consumes it.”

Jack stopped and starred at her. “So what does that mean?” he asked. “That you eat some of this new corn or whatever, and it’ll just start changing your DNA?”

Naomi nodded, and Jack felt a shiver run down his spine at the pain etched on her face. “That is exactly what I mean, Jack,” she told him bitterly.– Season of the Harvest

Though there is evidence in nature that plants could possibly transfer a retrovirus to invertebrates (like us), the possibility of scientist being able to genetically alter a plant to carry a virus that could infect any creature and having the ability to totally change the genome of that creature is undoubtedly in the realm of science fiction.  

hiv-budding
A HIV virus exiting a cell (Wikimedia Commons)

Books in the Series by Order:

Most Favorite in the series: Reaping the Harvest with a score of 4.37

Least Favorite in the series: Season of the Harvest with a score of 3.77

Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Barnes and Nobles, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)

season_of_the_harvest#1-Season of the Harvest- 2011

Listed #224 out of 549 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List

First Line:

Sheldon Crane ran for his life.


Characters

Jack Armand Dawson: FBI special agent that gets drawn into a huge conspiracy involving GMOs

Naomi Perrault: Brilliant geneticist

Carl Richards: By the book FBI agent

Renee Vintner: Computer expert

Sergei Mikhailov: Russian military officer


The Setting

Norway; Lincoln, Nebraska; Sutter Buttes, California


What if the genetically modified crops that we’re being forced to depend on for food weren’t really created by man? What if they had a far more sinister purpose?

FBI Special Agent Jack Dawson investigates the gruesome murder of his best friend and fellow agent who had been pursuing a group of eco-terrorists. The group’s leader, Naomi Perrault, is a beautiful geneticist who Jack believes conspired to kill his friend, and is claiming that a major international conglomerate developing genetically engineered crops is plotting a sinister transformation of our world that will lead humanity to extinction. As Jack is drawn into a quietly raging war that suddenly explodes onto the front pages of the news, he discovers that her claims may not be so outrageous after all. Together, the two of them must battle a horror Jack could never have imagined, with the fate of all life on Earth hanging in the balance…


Looking for a review of Season of the Harvest?  Check out:

TJs New Book Blog

Tyson Adams

Brick ONeal

Sharkbait Writes


Amazon Rating-US: 4.20 out of 5 stars based on 1,054 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.27 out of 5 stars based on 173 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 3.60 out of 5 stars based on 3,571 ratings

Barnes & Nobel Rating: 4.30 out of 5 stars based on 165 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.35 out of 5 stars based on 33 ratings

Total Score 3.77

 

DNA2

 

bitter_harvest#2-Bitter Harvest- 2012

Listed #348 out of 549 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List

First Line:

“Are you worried?”


Characters

Jack Armand Dawson, Naomi Perrault, Carl Richards, and Renee Vintner


The Setting

Norway; Russia; Nebraska; Los Angeles, California


A year has passed since the Sutter Buttes incident. Jack Dawson and Naomi Perrault, having failed to find the elusive bag of lethal New Horizons seed, are fired, and their secret agency shut down.

In Los Angeles, Naomi is recruited by a self-made billionaire in the pharmaceuticals industry. Her colleagues have made such progress, they must have New Horizons seed. In India, Jack finds a terrifying secret in a remote village. In Russia, Army Captain Sergei Mikhailov investigates a shadowy facility where everyone has mysteriously disappeared. None of them understand the horror about to be unleashed across the globe, one they may not be able to stop…


Looking for a review of Bitter Harvest?  Check out:

Is It Me?


Amazon Rating-US: 4.61 out of 5 stars based on 339 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.62 out of 5 stars based on 89 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.16 out of 5 stars based on 796 ratings

Barnes & Nobel Rating: 4.86 out of 5 stars based on 21 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.20 out of 5 stars based on 5 ratings

Total Score 4.33

 

virus

 

reaping_the_harvest#3-Reaping the Harvest- 2013

Listed #393 out of 549 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List

Listed #94 out of 168 on Goodreads Best Sciencethrillers Book List

First Line:

He swam through a sea of inky darkness, his heart hammering with fear of the nameless horror that pursued him.

Characters

Jack Armand Dawson, Naomi Perrault, Carl Richards, and Renee Vintner


The Setting

Norway; Russia; Nebraska; Los Angeles, California


Jack Dawson awakens from the terrifying nightmare of the events in BITTER HARVEST to find his world under siege. Millions of people have died while he’s lain in a coma in a Norwegian hospital, and the threat of humanity’s total annihilation looms closer with every passing day.

As Jack and his companions face the enemy on the ground, brilliant geneticist Naomi Perrault is forced to strike a bargain with the devil as she races against time to develop a super-weapon that could win the war.


Looking for a review of Reaping the Harvest?  Check out:

Is it Me?


Amazon Rating-US: 4.62 out of 5 stars based on 320 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.67 out of 5 stars based on 96 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.20 out of 5 stars based on 669 ratings

Barnes & Nobel Rating: 4.50 out of 5 stars based on 22 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings

Total Score 4.37 (updated 4/18/17)