I should have read this book many months ago as I’d promised the author, but at least I’ve finally gotten around to doing it. Here are my thoughts:
Genre: Science fiction, thriller
Publication date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
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 rumors 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.
The synopsis more or less describes most of the story, except for how it ends. The book has a strong start, alternating between events that took place in 1960 in a small town called Galina and parallel events occurring in 2020.
A mysterious red hailstorm in 1960 Galina sets in motion a series of sicknesses in the people of the town — the Galina Plagues. Fear and uncertainty cause the racist undercurrents in the town to come out into the open, and the hate is spurred on by a group led by a rabble-rousing priest who blames a certain section of the townspeople for spreading the disease. In 2020, similar sicknesses are observed in people who then dig through the past and try to understand what is causing it.
The story moves back and forth between what happened in 1960 and what Colin (a researcher studying the Galina Plagues) find out in 2020.
Killen writes beautifully, fully able to trace how fury and hate can be whipped up on the merest of pretexts. We can see parallels in real life; indeed–racism, religious bigotry, homophobia–are the burning issues of today.
Some hard-hitting and insightful quotes:
“If most of the people affected are poor and brown, no one gives a shit.”Colin
“Men can afford to be merciful. Women can’t. The high road is a luxury women can’t afford. No matter where you and your daddy go, no matter what you do in this world, you don’t forget that.”Dove McNally
“There’s some who think women should be awake to feel the pain, like it’ll teach them a lesson. I say we got enough pain just being in this world. Might as well avoid it when we can.Dove McNally
No prizes for guessing that Dove is my favorite character–gutsy, plain-talking, empathetic.
All’s well until we arrive at the end–when the cause of the “Plagues” is revealed. I had high expectations because of the way the story was presented in the beginning, but the end fell flat. The possessed animals and plants could have played a bigger role in the story–they felt like props at best.
I was mystified by the placid acceptance of the situation by the characters in 2020 (Colin, Alonzo, and Sonia)–it just didn’t seem believable. Old Anza’s indifferent stance was also strange–wouldn’t she take more of an interest in what happens to the future generations? I can’t say more without giving away the plot.
Of course, it is possible that I am influenced by popular conspiracy theories such that I find the explanation given in the book too tame. But I’d expected something more given how detailed Colin’s research into the Plagues had been. It failed to blow my mind, in short.
Nevertheless, Red Hail has some strong writing with a delightfully feminist tone that I loved.
(I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.)
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/50491468
Red Adept Publishing – https://redadeptpublishing.com/product/red-hail/
Other Reedsy Discovery Reviews
You may like to read the reviews I wrote recently for other indie books I got from Reedsy Discovery:
(Humor) Ramblings of an Old Poot by Daniel Harry – Review
(Medical Thriller) Running Still by Steven Sheiner – Review
(Short Stories) Twelve Stories From Around the World by Poornima Manco – Review
(Children’s Picture Book) Cleo Can Tie a Bow by Sabrina Durant – Review