Thursday, January 16, 2014

Best of 2013 - the Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith

Title: the Last Hour of Gann
Author: R. Lee Smith
Genre: Sci-fi Romance/Adventure
Length: Novel (600pgs)
Reviewed by: CaroleDee

Rating- 5
Sexual- 4

Amber Bierce had nothing left except her sister and two tickets on Earth’s first colony-ship. She entered her Sleeper with a five-year contract and the promise of a better life, but awakened in wreckage on an unknown world. For the survivors, there is no rescue, no way home and no hope until they are found by Meoraq—a holy warrior more deadly than any hungering beast on this hostile new world…but whose eyes show a different sort of hunger when he looks at her.

It was his last year of freedom:

Uyane Meoraq is a Sword of Sheul, God’s own instrument of judgment, victor of hundreds of trials, with a conqueror’s rights over all men. Or at least he was until his father’s death. Now, without divine intervention, he will be forced to assume stewardship over House Uyane and lose the life he has always known. At the legendary temple of Xi’Matezh, Meoraq hopes to find the deliverance he seeks, but the humans he encounters on his pilgrimage may prove too great a test even for him…especially the one called Amber, behind whose monstrous appearance burns a woman’s heart unlike any he has ever known.

From R. Lee Smith, author of Heat and Cottonwood, comes an epic new story of desire, darkness and the dawn that comes after The Last Hour of Gann.

The Last Hour of Gann caught my attention while I was waiting for the newest Tracy St. John book to release. I thought, 'Well, I'm waiting for a sci-fi romance, so I'll pick this one up to pass the time.' Little did I know that my random book buy was going to take me on one of the most thought provoking, odd, and memorable rides of my life. EVER.

It's f
uture earth and the population is out of control. After her mother's death Amber and her sister are being evicted from their home. Their resources and choices are limited.
They can:
1. Prostitute themselves
2. Sign up for the country's welfare system, where they'll work for menial wages and be housed in dorms with 100's of other women.
3. Be part of the first voyage to a new planet to colonize.

Amber makes, what she thinks is the best choice, and signs her sister and herself up to be pilgrims to a new world. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned and the ship crashes on an unknown planet. (Thus starts the 'human' story in this saga)

Uyane Meoraq is a certified bad-ass ordained by God. (No joke. The guy gets to kill people based what he feels is 'god's word') The whole planet are religious to the point of being zealots. It hasn't always been that way. There are ruins of cities and towns much like the Earth that Amber and her fellow humans left. An unknown amount of years ago the sin and debauchery of his people brought on the 'Wrath of God'  heralding in the Hour of Gann. After seeing a great fire in the distance Meoraq sets out on a pilgrimage to the holiest of cities. (where he's been told he will actually get to speak to God in the flesh)
Along the way he meets up with Amber and the other human survivors. When he sees the strange, flat face, hair covered beings he decides it's God's will that he take them along on his pilgrimage.
It's a long, and arduous journey that the modern day humans are NOT prepared for. Lack of food, stress, disease, and *really evil* raiders are  a few of the things they encounter along the way.

That's where I'm going to end my summary. Honest truth? That's not even a 10% of what happens in this book.

So where do I start on my actual review?
I LOVED this book. It's been a week since I finished. I wasn't going to write a review, BUT The Last Hour of Gann dug it's way into my subconscious. I just kept thinking about it. If a book can resonate with me like that I feel like it needs to be talked about.

It's not an easy book to read. There are far more unhappy moments than there are happy. (I do want to say right now that there IS a HEA! So don't be afraid!)  BUT getting to it? WOW!

Let's start with the humans:
UGH, Amber couldn't have been stuck with a weaker, more annoying, and conniving lot. She and Meoraq worked their butts off for them, but they never showed a smidgen of gratitude. The best I can figure is that it is a representation of the extreme entitlement that everyone seems to have acquired over the years.

Amber and Meuraq's relationship:  It's VERY slow to build. And heck, it should be. They're alien to each other, literally. Neither one finds the other attractive. But there is a spark that slowly builds. When it finally culminates you can tell it's actually love. Not lust. And it's a beautiful thing.

The setting: Fairly early on I started to realize that the planet used to be much like earth. The cities are almost identical with their towering structures and robots . After the Wrath of God, it's forbidden to live in the cities or to use the machinery, but they are still there. Ghost towns (today) are creepy enough, but imagine that on a city scale with half-functioning robots roaming around. Very scary

The raiders: I'm not going to throw punches. These guys are EVIL! They work outside of the word of God. They rape, kidnap, and murder. This book is realistic. The main characters are not shielded from these evils. It can be hard to read, but is necessary to the story.

The end: I'm not going to spoil anything, but once again I want to point out that there is a bitter-sweet HEA. I don't think it could have ended any better than what the author gave me. I was on pins and needles for the entire book to find out what the holy city and the 'meet up' with God was going to be like. It was just as amazing! Definitely not something I will forget for a long time.

So, obviously, I loved this book. While thinking of writing this review, though I started to have doubts if everyone would share my optimism. I'm going to sum up my thoughts easily enough so you can make the choice:

Fantastic world building

Wonderfully written characters. Whether you love them or hate them you will feel something for these people.

Thought provoking plot. (No way you'll walk away from this without questioning our way of life)

Great romance

Realistic circumstances (It's a hard world and that's not hidden)

Here are the cons that I think might turn some people away :

Length: This book is LOOONG. I read fast. I usually devour a 350 page book in a day. The Last Hour of Gann took me four days to read.

Content: Scenes of rape and violence.
And, obviously, there is different species sex going on. While similarly built there are differences that may be a bit shocking to some.

Religion: There are many questions and answers about religion in this book. Let me clarify it is not 'preachy', but it is there and a very large part of the story.

The best summary I can think of is that this is a very heavy book. Metaphorically and literally (if I had this sucker in hard back it would probably be big enough to knock someone out with. lol)
This isn't a 'light beach read'.
It does not fall in the erotic 'mars needs women' troupe.
I can honestly say The Last Hour of Gann stands by itself.
I've never read anything like it and I doubt I will again for a long time.
Simply put: It was absolutely wonderful.

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