I asked for Red Hail by J. Killen on a whim. The cover and the synopsis caught my eye while I was browsing through ARC lists, looking for a story with an interesting plot and some horror/sci-fi elements. The LGBT theme? It was just the cherry on top.
For the most part, I’ve got to say that RH lived up to my expectations! Yay!
Intriguing! It goes well with the title and it has a scary vibe.
- RH is a page turner. It is. The concept is captivating enough that you have to find out what happens next to Alonzo, to Sonia, to Dove, to Father Santiago. The cast of characters is also good, they’re all well-rounded and fleshed out – and it’s not too big, phew. Dunno about you, but my eyelids start drooping the moment the main cast hits double digits.
- Jamie, your prose and pacing are impeccable. Not a misplaced comma, a wrong word; info are doled out in precise, even amounts. Technically speaking, RH is perfect. It’s a relief for weary eyes <3
- The structure is sound, too. It follows two different timelines, two different sets of characters and it references back and forth throughout the whole story. Not once I felt lost or I had to go back and check info though, there are no plot holes or places where the logic is faulty.
- Dove is a splendid character. I appreciate her no-nonsense approach to things, even when they stop making sense. ‘Give me an excuse’? Way to go. I would have loved for Richie to give Dove an excuse, haha.
- The relationship between Colin and Alonzo is awesome. It’s quiet, it’s strong, they both grow as characters and as partners. Sometimes – no: often – I stumble over LGBTQ+ couples that are written as over the top, as if they have something more to prove when compared to het couples. This doesn’t happen in RH, and I’m glad. Good job.
- I have an issue with the way Anza and Dylan are portrayed in RH, and it’s about the fact that they act like they’re way too old for their age. It makes for strong characters, yes, but it also lacks in the realism department. Their weaknesses are mentioned, but almost glossed over – say, the bond between Sonia and Dylan is strong and she’s a loving mother, so how am I supposed to believe that he’s okay with her leaving when they’re both sick? He’s seven.
- The build up is very good, but the Plague itself and the ending fall a little flat. The conflict is solved Just Like That, offering Bargain A in 1960 and Bargain B in 2020, and the culprits of everything are just ‘yep, cool’.
- As I was saying, the Plague itself leaves me a little uh. It doesn’t kill people in the ‘60 – not in a direct way, forget Doug and the rioting for a moment here – and it doesn’t kill people now either; the stakes are a bit too low.
3 stars on GR, 6,5 here. Impressive technique, Jamie, I’m keeping an eye on your works 🙂