Knowing what I know about this book, the above “redonk nutshell” has to be the lamest one I’ve possibly ever written. This is probably going to be a bizarre review so bear with me. This was a strange and epically intense book.
I picked up R. L. Smith’s Heat after reading a post over at Wonk-o-Mance, a blog hosted by several stellar authors. Amber Lin talked about romances that push the envelope and dare to skirt edges many people fear to tread. Thus, I picked up Heat, thinking it sounded like something that would pique my interest. It sat in my queue for a while, mostly because I have SO MUCH to read and it wasn’t on loan to me, so I could pick it up anytime. When I finally made my way to it, I couldn’t put it down.
I often times find myself wondering where we as human beings get our fascination with the grotesque. Example: car crashes-people just can’t look away. I find myself objectively torn over Heat and why I found it so fascinating knowing it’s chocked full of horrific themes that I, in any ordinary circumstances, would never admit to being fascinated by. But damn it all if this book isn’t simply that – fascinating. It’s appallingly violent, what with people’s brains being harvested and all, and the violence against women (there’s seriously heinous rape and sexual domination), one has to wonder how effed up one is to be seriously contemplating this book as one of the best they’ve read in a long time. And folks, that’d be me.
Kanetus E’Var, Kane, has narrowly escaped imprisonment, and has managed to stow away on Earth. His goal is to pull off one more great heist of Vhast, a drug synthesized from the human hypothalamus gland. There are two things he doesn’t count on – 1) a Fleet officer coming after him and 2) the record breaking heat wave that is enveloping the area he landed.
Important to know: His kind, the Jotan, go into Heat, a violent and painful breeding time that is triggered by excessive heat.
While Kane murders and violates his way across the Northwest, Fleet officer Tagen Pahnee takes refuge with a tormented female human in order to help track down his fugitive.
Heat is two stories of two very different men, interwoven delicately around their dangerous dance with each other. “Dangerous” doesn’t even begin to describe Kane. When reading violence in novels, I typically find myself somewhat protected by a feeling of displacement from the action itself. Smith somehow managed to rip that away, leaving us vulnerable and bare to the Kane’s detached violence. He rips the skulls off his victims in order to procure his drug, violently rapes women as Heat comes upon him, and inflicts bizarre yet possessive treatment upon the one woman, Raven, he singles out to keep with him during his murder spree. He forces her to be tattooed and pierced. He passes her around to service his victims before he harvests them. This was so far outside my comfort zone I found myself forcibly shutting off the judgmental part of my brain in order to keep up my pace.
And I was horrifically entranced.
Then there’s Tagen’s side of the story. Where everything about Kane scrambles you, Tagen’s story helps put it back together. Tagen finds himself in the hands of Daria, a woman who has suffered serious post traumatic stress after being assaulted and permanently scarred six years prior. Tagen actually has morals and he goes out of his way to learn the human language and culture while attempting to not step on Daria’s toes. When Heat comes upon him, he does everything within his power to keep himself away from her, and when Daria realizes that he’s becoming increasingly ill, she offers to help in the only way she can.
Kane is the dark and Tagen is the light. There is definitely more emotional investment in the dark side of the story. It’s one of those rare instances where you find yourself rooting for the bad guy, though you know deep down it goes against everything you believe in. In such a tormented, violent, and erotic story we still somehow manage to get happily-ever-after endings. And that’s saying something for Kane. Mind you, there’ s no redemption for this man. He is who he is, and he’s never going to change. What does change him, however, is his relation to Raven, and more so, her’s to him.
If Tarantino ever had a love child with an erotic science fiction book, it would resemble Heat. This book is NOT for the faint of heart. If you have any predilection towards stories with redemption and heartwarming romance, then you’d best keep away from this one. However, if you’re looking for something a little different, something that will rip you outside of your comfort zone and force you to watch, this might be a good one to consider.
Heat is a self-published (and LONG) novel. There are a few typos here and there, but otherwise I found myself really engrossed in this story. I’ve already added another of Smith’s books to my queue, and I’m excited to get to it sometime soon.
Romance: 2/5 Raunch: 5/5
*note – this book contains graphic violence, including but not limited to gratuitous sex, both consensual and non-consensual. This may be a hard limit for some readers