BOOK REVIEW: Red Hail, by Jamie Killen
Professor Colin Ayres has spent years researching the strange story of Galina, Arizona, a sleepy border town ripped apart by violence and paranoia after the outbreak of a mysterious illness in 1960. Colin is certain the Galina Incident was simply a case of mass hysteria. But when his partner, Alonzo, starts exhibiting strange symptoms, Colin is shocked to realize they are the same as those that emerged in Galina decades ago.
As Alonzo’s condition worsens, Colin scrambles to piece together what really happened during that terrible summer in the past. He uncovers a story of murder, corruption, and fanaticism. The deeper he digs, the more he becomes convinced that what happened in Galina wasn’t mass hysteria after all.
When others start to develop the same eerie symptoms, Colin must confront the possibility that someone—or something—is driving the plague. Guided by rumours of a person who found a way to stop the plague in the sixties, Colin races to find answers before the disease destroys Alonzo and everyone else it touches.
4* A smart, stylish, and well-researched foray into science fiction from talented author Jamie Killen.
A story told across two eras – the 1960s and present day 2020 – that sees two unlikely trios race to determine what is causing the onset and progression of unusual behaviours in people, from temporarily zoning out to holding seemingly impossible positions for minutes at a time. What is making people do this? Why are only some people affected whilst others are not?
I am a naturally curious person, and I enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction that not only captures my attention but challenges me to dig a little deeper and research a little wider. (I did a research PhD and I have a terrible, terrible need to Google. Like an insatiable itch, if I hear or read or see something that captures my curiosity, I must drop everything and look it up. Information fascinates me, and I enjoy the researching and learning process of assimilating it into knowledge.)
Red Hail is one of those works of fiction that just ticks all the right boxes for me. I loved the inclusion of social and psychological theory (I went down a Wikipedia rabbit hole that started with mass hysteria and ended with Day of the Triffid-esque studies on plant communication and defence systems - fantastic) and the use of differing schools of thoughts to widen the perspective on the phenomenon.
Colin was a central character for me, and not only for his unfaltering devotion to his partner, Alonso. Colin is a PhD researcher himself, his thesis centred on the Galina plagues and riots and their possible relation to mass hysteria. His relationship with Alonso and then Sonia creates a team which acts as the perfect device for making what is quite complex and often scientific theory accessible to the reader: the three often sit together and bounce ideas of each other; Colin translates much of the heavier stuff into layman terms for the benefit of the others (and us), and; Sonia’s dry humour and sarcasm helps to make the information more human and relatable.
In the 1960s set chapters, we see another team of three – the indominable Dove, compassionate Father Santiago, and the fierce and mature Anza – using everything at their disposal to determine just what is going on. We see parallels between the two groups, despite their distance in time, and members of both groups are plagued by personal conflicts that take differing forms in the then and now.
Author Killen uses her characters well, the boundaries of their investigation ever-widening, and her insights into human behaviour in the face of an unknown opposition is comprehensive and thought-provoking. As the numbers of infected increase in the small community, anxiety and tension ratchets, the tendrils of fear reaching into the chilled corners of the darker side of human nature: racism, hatred, religious intolerance. Red Hail leaves you questioning your own nature, and how you would react in such a situation. Would you run, or go out of your way to confront whatever or whoever is jeopardising your wellbeing?
I thoroughly enjoyed Red Hail and highly recommend it to fans of both science fiction and general adult fiction.
Buy Red Hail - Amazon UK
Buy Red Hail - Amazon US
About the Author
Jamie Killen’s introduction to the world of dark fiction came at the age of seven, when her well-meaning but perhaps overly enthusiastic dad decided that the works of Harlan Ellison made for some great bedtime stories. She’s been avidly consuming science fiction, horror, and fantasy novels, movies, comic books, and podcasts ever since.
Jamie’s short stories and flash fiction have appeared in dozens of anthologies and magazines. She is also a writer and director of several dark fiction podcasts.
Originally from Arizona, Jamie now lives in Texas with her long time partner. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys practicing her mixology skills by inventing new and exciting designer cocktails. She also likes craft beer, travel, and cuddling with her two adorable rescue mutts.
Publisher’s Website: https://redadeptpublishing.com/product/red-hail/
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50491468-red-hail