To me, there’s two kinds of good: the “devoured in a single sitting good” and the “I want to savor every page” good and Red Hail was the latter.
Book Name: Red Hail
Series: Standalone Book: N/A
Author: Jamie Killen
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle
Obtained: Review Request
Genre: Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Sci-Fi
A copy of this book was provided to me by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are mine.
Instead of the pale color of fresh ice, though, the hailstones had the raw crimson hue of uncooked meat. As Anza watched, they piled and began to melt while new stones fell onto the slush. It only took a minute for Dove’s front yard to transform into a red mass of gore. It sluiced down her driveway and into the road, forming a river of blood flowing down the slopePage 6, Red Hail by Jamie Killen
Taking place in two timelines, 2020 and 1960, Red Hail weaves a story that connects both timelines together with a mysterious illness. Those that lived and survived through that horrid summer, back in 1960, wanted nothing more than to forget about the incident.
The 1960 Red Hail was described as an incident where pieces of red hail fell from the skies in Galina, Arizona. Residents of Galina had no idea where it came from or what it was, only that it came suddenly and that the mysterious illness quickly followed. Paranoia and mass violence began to rip the town apart, in a witch hunt style, as fingers were pointed and races and religions were blamed to be the root cause of this madness. And then, just as instantly as the red hail and illness arrived to plague Galina, it had disappeared without a trace. In the end, the incident was written off as a summer of mass hysteria, there were no other new patients to follow nor did those already plagued with the symptoms continue to have them.
60 years afterwards, we follow the story of Professor Colin Ayres and his partner Alonzo. Colins had spent years researching the incident and had concluded it to be mass hysteria. However, soon Alonzo begins to exhibit the same symptoms as the Galina residents had several decades ago. As Alonzo’s condition worsens and others begin to show the same exact symptoms, Colin must get to the bottom of what’s happening and quick.
My take on this book? I loved it. To pieces. I shivered under blankets because of this book. Not particularly scary in any paranormal way, the symptoms that the people suffering from the illness displayed where horrifying to imagine. Coming in stages, the first stage wasn’t particularly terrifying but the second sure was. Hell, even when the illness progressed further, I think it was the second stage that still terrified me the most. Because it wasn’t human. The symptoms shown by those struck with the illness felt unreal, nightmare-like, and were very otherworldly. The chills crept in when you could feel Colin’s cold almost-lonely fear, through the pages, as he watches these symptoms develop in his beloved partner and he can’t do anything about it because nothing makes any medical sense! Even medicine can help alleviate symptoms when you can’t cure the disease, but what medicine do you give for symptoms that have no explanation? Alonzo (and the others suffering) doesn’t recall any of this. He just blacks out, one minute talking and the next wondering why people were staring at him.
I loved the split between the two set of characters and timelines. In the present day timeline, we have Colin, his partner Alonzo, and another person who makes contact with the professor after they also begin to exhibit symptoms. In 1960, we have a similar group of people who are going through the same thing. One tale shows the very beginning of when everything started and one tale uses the clues left behind by those same people to understand what’s happening in present day.
I loved both settings and characters, though the story in 1960 was much more riveting to read as people tried to piece together what the hells happening, but since they couldn’t, they turned to violence. The 1960 tale revolved around a much larger set of characters (besides the main three, there were also many different families, different churches, politicians and such). If I had to briefly sum them both up 2020: time to solve this mystery using clues from the first “plague” and 1960: chaos.
Absolutely a shining gem, the characters felt so real and all their fears tingled my own heart. People were frustrated, no answers were given, and by the end of the first “plague,” back in 1960, the residents didn’t even get any closure, the mysterious illness simply vanished. They just…had to move on with their lives like they aren’t all traumatized bringing us to 2020 where the mystery continues.
There were also several very strong female characters that I loved; a single mother who just wanted to get to the bottom of this thing plaguing both her and her son, and two in 1960 Galina who were there to experience the beginning of the end of the town when the hail first fell.
The violence and riots that summer in 1960 felt so real. It gave the reader an huge sense of insecurity and it felt like nobody was safe, be it from the illness or the violence. You never know who was up next to fall ill. You don’t know whose is getting blamed next. Religion played a huge part because the first thing many folks think, when the sky rains blood, is that the end of the world is coming or it’s the devil’s work. And in times of uncertainty, many turn to prayers and look towards the church’s guidance and it’s up to the church leaders to act appropriately because desperate people are probably the scariest people out there. They will believe any theory and will do anything to get rid of the illness in a very violent “ends justify the means” way.
Eyes glued to the book, I went in slow, I went through slow, and when I realized the book was beginning to draw to an end, my paced dropped even further, I didn’t want it to end.
Yet another hidden sci-fi gem, I had an amazing read.
Thank you Jamie for reaching out and for the amazing book!