Red Hail is a sci-fi novel by Jamie Killen and What. The. Fuck.
The author contacted me about this book to read and review it and initially I was hesitant for one main reason. The book was pitched to me as a LGBTQ novel, and typically when books are pitched to me like this, I end up finding out that yes it includes a diverse cast of characters, but that is it. The characters themselves end up having their sexuality, their race, or their gender being their only personality trait and it is also the only plot point of the book. While I love the diversity, there really isn’t much there to read and enjoy; I hate that it reduces these potentially interesting and wonderful characters to their sexuality, their race, or their gender. That was not the case in this instance and I am thrilled to know that is the case.
Red Hail takes a bit of time to pick up, but once it does you are on a nonstop journey trying to figure out what happened. This book takes place over two time periods, one time period is the 1960’s and the other is in the 2020’s. Obviously these are two very different periods of time and different things happen and the author handled this incredibly well. Each time period tells a completely different story that I honestly thought was two different stories. I was wrong. Instead of being two entirely different stories it is two interwoven stories happening that you have to try and connect the pieces too. (Thankfully if you are bad at puzzles like I am, the author does eventually connect all of the pieces together so that you know everything that happens.)
As there are two different stories there are obviously two sets of main characters to keep track of, and ultimately the way it breaks down is there are three main characters in the 1960’s and two main characters in the 2020’s. I loved the main characters in the 1960’s far more than I loved the main characters in the 2020’s. The three main characters included a teenage child (Anza), an adult woman (Dove), and a priest. Yes, you did hear that correctly, yes it does sound like a set up to a bad joke, and yes each character was vastly different with their own plot points and ideas. When we are introduced to Anza and Dove when Anza is seeking an abortion and needs a safe way to do it, and Dove, a retired nurse, is the one who can help her get it. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! That is how we are introduced to them and we are not supposed to instantly want to know everything about their lives? In the 2020’s we have Alonzo and Colin. Alonzo is a direct descendant of the individuals from the 1960’s and Colin is his partner. Alonzo starts to experience things that happened to the victims of the Red Hail in the 60’s and now it is a race against time to try to figure out what happened then, and what is happening now.
I really enjoyed this book, and I loved how different the cast of characters was. There was no “typical” character as each one was well developed and incredibly interesting. I also loved the setting. I cannot remember a time when I read a book set in a sleepy town in Arizona and the author painted a picture of where the town was and what it looked like, not just in one time period, but two.
The thing I hated about this book (REVIEWER’S NOTE – THIS PARAGRAPH DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE BOOK) is the ending. The things these characters went through, from the Naming, to the Dancing, and the other things that happened painted a vast picture of what might happen and what might be the root cause of it. My mind painted ancient technology that has been hidden and somehow activated. Aliens that were working to control people to use as soldiers in a war. And ultimately, it ended up being a hive mind alien that just wanted to learn about earth’s creatures. I want to say I wasn’t disappointed but once I found out what it was, and what the suspense was leading up too, I sincerely felt so let down and unhappy. It didn’t diminish how much I loved the beginning of the book, but it did make it that I would give a warning to anyone else that read it.
Overall – This was an excellent Sci-Fi book filled with suspense and ideas that I couldn’t quite figure out on my own. I loved seeing the two story lines intermingle and eventually connect together. The cast of characters was diverse and interesting without feeling like it was a box to be checked so the author could promote it as an LGBTQ novel and I am incredibly happy that is the case. I would recommend this book with the caveat that I was not a fan of the ending.
Plot – 6/10
Characters – 8/10
Originality – 10/10
General Joy of Reading – 6/10
Overall Score – 30/40
Red Hail – Jamie Killen
Cost* – eBook is $5.99.
*Cost is based upon what the book cost when book review is published