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REVIEW: The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith

Dear R. Lee Smith:

I can’t remember the last time a book had me so engaged emotionally and so utterly captivated by the storyline. Maybe not since Meljean Brook’s Iron Duke or Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. I’ve been telling everyone I know, from posting about it on Facebook, to tweeting about it, texting local friends, and emailing others.

Last Hour of Gann R Lee Smith
The world building blew me away as did the hero, Meoraq. The heroine, Amber, was also quite good although her character was a bit more problematic. Let me state up front that bad things happen to Amber in this book. Bad things happen to Meoraq too and in some ways more devastating than what happens to Amber but that might be debatable.

The short summary of this review is Amber and Meoraq go on a quest (only one of them really knows this), fall in love, bad things happen, and then the end.  I loved it even though the hero is a lizardman. Longer, spoiler-y review below.

I’m sharing some details because I want to try to convince people to read the book and I think a little background is not amiss. If a reader doesn’t like any kind of spoilers, stop now and just skip to the buy buttons at the bottom.

Ahem.

Amber is the daughter of a prostitue and in post apocalyptic Earth where there is population control due to dying resources, Amber and her sister, Nicci, are left with few options. Amber decides that she and Nicci will embark on Earth’s first colony-ship in hopes that they will obtain a better chance at life in another planet. Nicci does not want to go but Amber forces her too. This decision will haunt Amber forever.

Amber and Nicci’s ship crash lands on an unknown world and only about 50 of the several thousand humans aboard the ship survive. Out of the small group of survivors are two leaders – Amber and Scott.  Amber is a terrible people person and despite having a good head on her shoulders such as knowing not to camp in a valley during a rain, no one will listen to her.  Scott is the opposite. He has few survival skills but for his charisma.  Scott and Nicci (and most of the humans) are the most poorly drawn characters in the story. We never really get a sense of why anyone would follow Scott, but they do. I wished we had been shown instead of told that Scott was charismatic because I only saw him as a sniveling coward. Nonetheless, Scott recognizes that Amber is a threat to his leadership and does everything he can to marginalize her. The only thing that really saves her is that she is the one person whom Meoraq communicates with.

Meoraq. Holy cow. Best hero I’ve read all year. Meoraq is a Sword of Sheul, God’s Striding Foot. He is of the house of Uyane, son of the finest warrior Sheul has known. Meoraq himself is victor of hundreds of trials and known throughout the land.  As a Sheulek , Meoraq commands the respect of all men and all women because he is in a position closest to God.  The process of becoming a Sheulek is something akin to page – knight – baron or  cub scout -> scout -> eagle scout.  Essentially Sheulek is the highest position that can be held and in this religious run world, a warrior priest.

He gets to partake of whatever he desires, including the females.  As the eldest son Meoraq will eventually have to take up the stewardship of the House of Uyane and marry a woman and beget sons on her.  He looks forward to this task as one might look forward to licking a toilet clean. Meoraq will get to marrying and settling down in his own damned time.  He admits that humility is something he needs to work on.

Obviously. How many other Sheuleks do you have in your damned city tonight?

‘Forgive me, O my Father, and give me patience,’ Meoraq thought. He said, politely, “I am.”

“I am Exarch Ylsathoc Hirut.”

Meoraq waited.

The exarch frowned, clearly annoyed that he did not fall back cowering at the name. “Surely you were told that I wished to speak with you as soon as you arrived, as I was told the moment that you passed the gates of this city. But that was more than an hour ago. And here I have been. Waiting.”

I am a Sheulek and I go where I fucking well will.

One night as he gazes out into the sky, he sees a burning hand (Amber’s ship) and immediately believes that this is a sign from Sheul to seek on the holy temple of Xi’Matezh.  There he hopes to enter the inner sanctum that opens only for some and hear the voice of God tell him his future path. Meoraq does not lack confidence. Not only does he believe that he can make the trek but that the doors of the temple will open for him AND that he is important enough that God will speak to him about an unimportant of an issue as who shall be Meoraq’s wife. Even his cousin is amazed at Meoraq’s brazenness.

When Meoraq comes upon the humans, they all view him as an ignorant animal, all except Amber who recognizes that he understands her. Of course Meoraq is thinking the very same thing. At first they are disgusting features with no face but when they speak, he understands that these must be a different sort of creature made by God. Not only that but God must have put them in his path as part of his quest.

The longer he listened, the more certain Meoraq became that the strange chatter of the creatures who called themselves humans was indeed a true language, entirely separate from his own. This troubled him. The Prophet’s Word is the only Word. This was the first law of Sheul, repeated no less than twenty-three times throughout the book of His Word, and apart from the obvious, it had been interpreted to mean that there must be a single language so that all men might hear and understand the wisdoms of Sheul. Where once there had been countless tongues spoken over Gann, there was now only one: Dumaqi, the speech of men.

So. That the humans neither spoke nor even seemed to understand dumaqi was therefore an ominous sign of their true nature, but Meoraq had to admit that he had not emerged from his mother’s womb speaking it either. He would have to meditate on the matter.

The first third of the story is rather slow but filled with details about the world. We learn that Amber is a strong willed character, observant, smart and unfortunately devoted to her very weak sister.  We learn that Meoraq is a great warrior and that his religion has some unfortunate aspects that he believes in blindly. For instance, women are simply there to be seen and not heard. They are sniveling, whiny things good for only begetting sons and he was almost repelled by his own father’s devotion to the woman that spat him out.  Another unfortunate aspect is that all things are determined by combat. Disputes are decided between “champions” and the one that wins is determined to be right. I.e., if you throw a witch in water with her feet bound by concrete and she floats, then she isn’t a witch.  Meoraq always wins those disputes no matter how many men are thrown at him. Hence his status as Sheulek and his revered  reputation.

But Meoraq’s belief in the rightness of Sheul is compelling. He’s a fanatic but an incredibly thoughtful one. He’s the Sword of Sheul and he seeks to abide by the Word of Sheul at all times.  He does not give in to Gann (evil), or when he does, he seeks forgiveness and/or understanding.

He had been with many women in his twelve years of Striding (as Master Tsazr had said on that long-ago day, more than he could count), but what of that? He had also gone cheerfully without, not merely for days but for days by the brace. And while there were a few times that he could recall being aware of the lack, for the most part, he seldom thought of women at all if he were not exposed to them. He had felt Gann’s lusts on occasion when traveling but never, never suffered from them. Then again, he had never felt them this way before—dawn to dusk to dawn again, every hour almost unceasing. It was more than temptation; it was torture.

As he and Amber spend more time together, they move from antagonists to tentative friends to feeling unmoored without the other.  Ultimately Meoraq comes to believe that Amber is the gift from God. His feelings toward Amber become so strong that they rival his faith.  What makes their romance all the more incredible is that Meoraq is a biped lizard complete with scales, spines that move with his emotional state, and sex organs unlike humans.  Even more amazing is that when I was reading this book (and even after I was reading other books) Meoraq became the hottest thing around. He’s an amazing alpha hero who would walk through Gann (hell) to be with the one he loves. And he loves Amber despite her physical grotesqueness.

One of the amazing things about this book is making the reader fall in love with the lizardman. And part of the success in doing this is that we only see human features through the eyes of Meoraq and other lizard people. To those, humans are the disgusting ugly ones:

In the meantime, this left him struggling to make sense of a creature who thought all she had to do to talk was move her mouthparts around. And really, what else could they do? A human’s flat face had no snout, which meant no resonance chamber, and Sheul alone knew how hard it must be to make those wriggly little mouthparts shape the sounds those deformed tongues could not. Given their limitations, their absurdly simplistic language was no more than sounds strung together, entirely lacking the subtle nuance and precision of dumaqi.

Another character in the book when viewing Amber can only comment on her name because to the lizardlady (as Amber calls them) that’s the only compliment she can give “Nraqi leaned back, cupping Amber’s face gently between her hands and smiling. “Such a pretty name for…well…such a pretty name!””

As great as Meoraq is, we are shown exactly why he falls for Amber. She’s stubborn but loyal. She’s smart and quick witted.  She wants the best for her sister and feels tremendous guilt at having forced Nicci on the ship with her.  She never, ever gives up.  Never. And more than once saves herself and even Meoraq. I loved her grittiness and her determination.

Amber and Meoraq challenge each other. Amber is an atheist and she scoffs at Meoraq’s devotion to Sheul yet in his darkest hour it is Amber’s faith that carries him through. They both move from an extreme point toward a deeper understanding of the other’s viewpoint.

There are some horrific things that are done to Amber in this story (yes, sexual violence) but I never felt it was gratuitous because this is a story about faith.  There are small and huge tests of faith throughout the story and looking back, I felt what happened to Amber and what happens to Meoraq added heft to conclusions that they arrive at the end of the story.  Meoraq, in particular, is changed by his interaction with Amber and the strength of his feeling for her. It is his love for Amber that makes him question his past judgments and the future of his people.

And it is through Meoraq’s infinite understanding of Amber that we, the reader, are given justification for some of Amber’s most frustrating behaviors (none of which include running into a dark house full of serial killers but mostly relate to her dealings with the humans).

There are so many layers to this story and not all of them good.  Another person reading the story pointed out some problematic gender issues that I didn’t notice when I first read it.  The violence in the story could be too much for some readers and it was painful to read some sections.  But mostly I was blown away by the world in this book that was so full and real that I was there in Sheul with Meoraq and Amber. Their love is epic and there is no doubt at the end of the story that their love will endure because it survived so much how could it not?  Despite the slow beginning, despite the violence, despite even the problematic gender issues, this is an amazing story and one that I know I’ll not only re-read and continue to recommend but one that I’ll remember for years to come.

I texted someone and said in current book blog parlance, “My book boyfriend is a lizardman.” A-

Best regards,

Jane

This book will be our November book club pick.

 

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

46 Comments

  1. Melissa
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 11:11:38

    One thought cured me of my Amber dislike.

    Where there is life there is hope.

    It was never said so directly in the story, but that is what I felt Amber’s motivation towards her fellow humans was. When I viewed her through that context everything she did made perfect sense.

  2. Loosheesh
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 11:22:03

    I’m doing my 24-hour readathon thingy so no time to read your review but I’m reading the book now and I’m (finally!!) at the part where Amber and Meoraq meet! Ok, back to reading :D

  3. Nita G
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 11:25:46

    I’ve been looking forward to reading another book by R. Lee Smith since I read Heat. After reading your review, I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy this one as much as Heat (which was a whole lot). Bought and downloaded.

  4. pamelia
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 11:28:03

    I adored this book. I was rather put out that other things got in the way of reading it, since it’s long (very long) and one must work and eat and converse with people at home and can’t just say “leave me alone, I’m reading” all the time!
    What struck me was how when the story started Amber was a better person than Meoraq in that she was always striving for survival and helping everyone else and keeping her fellow survivors alive, but she was really hard to like whereas Meoraq was selfish, proud, snarky and beyond self-important but he was so easy to like. Both of them grew a lot through their journey and I really loved how they got to know one another and fall in love.
    I also loved the themes of religion and faith and how they ebbed and flowed in the book.
    Which problematic gender issue are you referring to? There are a LOT to choose from, but none of them were hot-button enough to anger me except in the ways I think they were designed to.

  5. Rachel
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 11:45:07

    Oops! I bought and started reading this book without realizing there would be rape. I am not far in but not sure I want to out it down. We’ll see how it goes.

  6. library addict
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 12:00:22

    Someone kindly loaned me this book since it’s Amazon only. I do want to read it, but am unsure when I will carve out enough time since it would take too long to read a bit here and a bit there. Darn real life getting in the way of my reading time.

  7. Meljean
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 12:13:36

    I struggled with some parts of this book, but I couldn’t put it down — and in the end I thought it was one of the most compelling, wonderful (and in some points awful — not awfully written, but just painful) stories that I’ve read in a long time. It will be a re-read for me, too. There’s a lot I want to visit again, good and bad, just because I wonder if reading it again (knowing how it all finishes) will change my reactions to some of the parts I struggled with.

  8. Rachel
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 12:16:59

    I loved Heat, although some sections were incredibly painful and difficult to read. There was one scene in particular that actually made me physically ill. However, the entire story was so well done that it didn’t ruin my love of the book. I definitely want to pick this one up. I just have one question before I hit the purchase button–does the hero rape the heroine? I skipped the spoiler section above because I didn’t want to get too spoiled so please excuse me if you mentioned this in your review. Thanks!

  9. Jane
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 12:18:02

    @Rachel: No, the hero does not rape the heroine but there is rape.

  10. Jane
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 12:21:30

    @pamelia: Maybe the person will come and speak to the issue because I didn’t notice it until she pointed it out but basically the women had no agency in the story and that the biological attack reinforced heteronormativity in that the men became rage demons and the women became passive.

    So caught up in the story I didn’t see it until later but the reader made a really good point. There are so many things we can all talk about during the book club and Smith’s lack of use of gender (as well as the human race) is just a tiny portion of it.

  11. Mag
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 15:04:05

    I loved the book and enjoyed your review. The themes of religion, faith, and life in all it’s forms were explored in such an interesting and unique manner. R. Lee Smith is an extremely talented author.

  12. Jane Stewart
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 16:07:16

    I’m so glad you told us about this book. I didn’t know she had another book out. I just bought it. Thank you!!!

  13. Susan
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 16:39:50

    I bought this book a couple of weeks ago when I read someone’s recommendation (it was probably on DA’s monthly readers’ forum) but have put off starting it because I knew it would be a tough go for me. I have an increasingly lower threshold for violence/bondage/humiliation/etc. as time goes by, but it sounded as if it would be a worthwhile read if I could get past that.

    I had to laugh; all that praise and it still only merited an A- from Jane. So tough! I should check the archives to see if there’s ever been a straight A awarded.

  14. Jo
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 17:03:03

    Can someone tell me, is it only available at amazon? Thanks

  15. Carolyn Jewel
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 17:26:49

    I’m pretty sure I’m the person Jane was referring to, though I know others joined the discussion. I’m happy to paste in the bulk of my email to Jane on the issues I saw. But I want to say I think Smith is doing really important things that all romance writers should be paying attention to. I am glad to be reminded that Romance can be huge and sweeping and that big issues can be put out there.

    As a reader, I was in love with this book. But I also believe it’s important to call out what is a consistent theme in her work, which yet someone else I was talking to about this referred to as the “normalization” of rape. This is not the only book by her in which the world she constructs includes rape as acceptable and even the only manner of having sexual relations — and I would be OK with that if there were any sense of commentary on that. The two cultures, human and Lizard, have exactly the same ethos and the women of either species do not object. I had a hard time with that.

    I love work that makes me think, and this does that. Some of my words here are strong, but I stand by them. I wrote the email in a personal capacity, so it’s not meant as a review. I would have to read the book several more times to do the work justice.

    If you haven’t read the book and don’t like spoilers, then don’t ready any farther as spoilers abound in what follows.

    SPOILERS!!!!!

    I have this amazing love/hate with Smith. I loved Heat for example, despite its wordiness. It was just so unapologetically un-PC. Other work by her has been dreadful. Bad beyond belief. All but the first book of the Griffin series, for example. The first book of that series is amazing and I was prepared to bow down to genius, but then … my God, the others. They were obviously unedited drafts […] But then I loved Scholomance until the end and even that’s a personal preference thing. No fault of the author’s. That’s on me. I could not finish Olivia.

    But I loved the Last Hour of Gann. It’s the kind of epic nobody’s writing anymore outside of Fantasy. I love that. Love it to death. I read it in what, 2-3 days? What I really loved is the way Amber was strong and sometimes unlikeable, and could rescue herself thank you. I loved the way Smith uses the underdog trope. I love that it’s a big fucking long ROMANCE and not epic Fantasy or sci-fi where love and romance get sacrificed at the alter of the male gaze.

    I found two things problematic. The first is the somewhat muddied commentary on white man’s burden. I enjoyed the hell out of her having that whole thing crash and burn for the humans. And yet, I was puzzled by the absolute lack of anyone, even Amber, thinking about what it means for them to be the aliens. So, I feel that could have been worked a little harder, because there’s a lot to say and the whole story seems like such an obvious setting for a more sly commentary on how offensive and wrong it is and nobody came to any realization about that. Ever. The “bad” humans were just always mean and bad. Also, all the humans of color died early on. And Amber is blonde. So, yeah.

    Earlier in the book Amber is thinking this when they’re in one of the old cities:
    “Lizardmen were going to want to wash their hands before they put them back on their keyboards. Lizardladies were going to want to touch up their cosmetics and adjust the lie of their lizardish clothes.”

    This is said with no commentary whatever on the culture Amber came from — where there were women in positions of authority and the culture she’s in. Not to mention, except for Amber, all the human women are passive. They make no attempt to do anything but submit to the behavior of the men. It’s explicitly stated by the men — women are there to be fucked, they have no right to vote– did not attempt to assert opinions and therefore they should obviously all submit to men. Amber is the sole counterbalance, and what do we see her do but get taught how to do womanly housekeeping things while she’s a slave. She never once suggests to Meoraq that she is a person with a right to agency. She only admits time and again that her agency rubs everyone the wrong way. She does not object when Meoraq says he can’t wait for her to have more gownings … (dress up!) once he’s being recognized as the new prophet and he never questions his view of females. She had as much to do with the revelation of a new divinity as him–possibly more since she saves and reinterprets his faith– and no one puts that forward. Not even Meoraq.

    There is a certain lack of nuance in Smith’s writing, and this sort of gendered thinking permeates her work.

    The one that enraged me most was this:
    It [the biological agent] attacks the hypothalmus, primarily, and through it, the adrenal system. Females have been, ah, depressed and males, stimulated. Rage is essentially an overdose of male sexual hormones…”

    I was hoping she wouldn’t go there. First, it’s a really simplistic view of male/female behaviors. She makes little to no effort to distinguish human and alien physiology and so hey. Why bother getting it right? Because women exposed to testosterone don’t become sexually “depressed.”
    “Testosterone is an experimental treatment used to raise a woman’s sexual interest, arousal, and satisfaction.”

    So really, what the fuck is this only the men are raging sex fiends and all the women are passive, sniveling submissives? The one lizard-lady who wasn’t got her limbs cut off and was kept alive only until she had a baby.

    So yes, I found that entire thread of the book offensive and one-dimensional.

    I highly recommend the book. I really do. Because yes! Meoraq is an awesome hero, among many other wonderful things about this book. We should all be talking about all the good that’s here as well as what we think about what some may see as problematic aspects. Our world is complex. Books can reflect that.

  16. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 18:39:32

    Kind of derailing, but here goes.

    I read Heat a few months ago and came here to comment because I had so many thoughts about it. I ended up deleting my comment (I think) but I really hated the book. I hate it more every time I think about it. I’ve never had such a strong negative reaction to a book. I want to warn readers away from it and at the same time talk about all of the issues I had with it. The glowing reviews completely baffle me.

    I won’t be reading this because of my bad experience with Heat. I thought it was a gratuitous rapefest disguised as something else. When we choose to read John Ringo, we know what it is. Heat is different. As a woman, I felt betrayed and traumatized by it. The first chapter showed the alien’s actions as reprehensible. We feel for the victim. By the middle, the scenes are designed to titillate IMO and we feel for…no one? There’s just so much rape and violence that the reader becomes desensitized. It’s as if the reader has been drugged and degraded. But I didn’t consent.

    I see what Carolyn Jewel is saying as far as normalizing rape. I might say that Heat fetishizes rape. I’ve never read rape fantasy before, so I don’t know if I have a problem with it in general. I certainly don’t have a problem with other readers enjoying it. But Heat seemed like more than that. It was total dehumanization, delivered in an insidious package.

    I also thought the worldbuilding was inconsistent, the character motivations incomprehensible, and the story unfocused. Even so, I gave the book 3 stars initially because some parts of it were so compelling. Later I reduced to 2.

    Anyway. I just wanted to share my experience because I think some readers might have the same reaction to Heat (and this book, if the rape scenes are similar) as I did. I hope not, because it’s not a good feeling, but if you do–you’re not alone.

  17. Jane
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 19:05:21

    Heat is a very different book both in structure and in tone than The Last Hour of Gann. But @Carolyn Jewel: I disagree with the rape being normalized in this story. I agree that in Heat rape was viewed as a casual almost necessary act but in this story, I felt like it played an important role in showing character growth for both Meoraq and Amber.

    Pre-Amber, Meoraq’s response to a raped woman would have been dismissive at best. He would have looked down at the man for having given in to Gann’s lusts but not thought much of the woman. Post-Amber, Meoraq’s response was much different. Could that change have happened without rape? Possibly but it made the bad guys authentic.

    I was thinking about the book by Kaylea Cross where the heroine is captured by radical Muslims and they beat her mercilessly but don’t violate her physically. In a capture scenario, is it reasonable to assume that they wouldn’t rape the female? In this capture scenario, did the rape serve a purpose? I think that it did.

    In a story about faith that Amber holds on to her belief that people are basically good then going through that experience and still holding on to that belief is part of the overall story structure. So I disagree that rape was normalized in this story.

    I’ve not read anything but Heat by RLee Smith but I do understand that rape is a common theme throughout her books. I’m not sure what that says about Smith as an author (frex, Charlaine Harris has rape in all her books as well) but I didn’t feel like the rapes in this book were gratuitous but actually added to the overall character and plot arc.

    That said, I don’t disagree with your comments regarding the gender roles. I didn’t notice those when I was reading but your points are well made and give me something to think about.

  18. pamelia
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 20:27:12

    **SPOILER FILLED**
    Regarding gender roles, I felt like they were meant to be upsetting, from the ways the colonists spoke about women before the ship left the earth and after they were marooned on Gann to the extreme codification of gender roles on Gann. I found the local culture expectations to be almost a grotesque characterization of men and women. And by the end of the story it is revealed, that yes that is exactly what they are. Is the science right? Well, since it’s science fiction I guess we have to rely on the “science” in the book wherein the researchers found that the “wrath” cloud made women passive while making men violent lunatics. I found it to be a rather compelling metaphor for our world under stress (whether through war or economic disaster the cultures under stress tend to revert to this awful dynamic of ravaging men and cowering women.)
    I guess I just see that in real life when stuff starts going bad women get marginalized. You don’t need to look any further than our own country to see the pervasive rise of anti-feminism, but you can take a look at any culture where the economy tanks and watch the chips fall decisively against womens’ interests. Add violence and destruction and you get this same terrible dynamic over an over again.
    I think there’s a lot of value in books which present gender equality, but I think that books where gender roles are more problematic can be really compelling because I really don’t think we live in a culture where we’ve ironed this stuff out yet. I know we don’t live in a world where the majority of women have achieved equality in any sense of the word and the worse things get the worse things get. I think books which cover this ground and show some kind of escape route have a lot of value.
    As for rape and normalizing rape culture, I think this book turns that somewhat on it’s ear. Does Amber get raped? Yes, but look at how the dynamic of her relationship with her rapist evolves. Look at how she talks to Zhuqa and what she says to him calling him a “slut” and a “dirty girl” and using sex against him to kill him.
    Do I think R. Lee Smith writes in too much rape in her books? Maybe she does. There is certainly a lot of it in “Heat” although there are also a lot of all other forms of violence as well and I think ripping off the back of someone’s skull might qualify as worse. There is rape in “Cottonwood” as well. The thing is that I never find the rape scenes to be written to titillate or to be anything but expressions of violence. I also found that Amber’s resilience in “Gann” was rather kickass. I hate to use the word “wallow”, but I will say that she does not have time, opportunity or energy to do anything but get beyond what happens to work on surviving and rescuing her SOB lizardman and I thought that was rather interesting. We often talk about rape in romance novels and the aftereffects and I have often thought about women in the real world in warzones who are raped and just have to get on with living. I think “Gann” really showed this and I wonder if other readers see it the way I do or if I’m out in left field.
    Bottom line is I just really really enjoy the audacity and risk-taking in Smith’s books. I don’t want her to start sanitizing or worrying about being more sensitive, because her books are big and brash and weird and scary and so engrossing and that’s just the way I like them. I think there is value in books which show more idealized characters and actions, but I’m a grown woman and I need this kind of awesomeness in some of my books!

  19. Carolyn Jewel
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 22:26:23

    I admire the heck out of Smith for what she puts on the pages, and I hope she continues doing so. I completely agree that Heat and Gann are very different as are the portrayals of sexual violence in the two books. I was in awe at how she made Kane (in Heat) so completely sympathetic even though he engaged in horrific behavior.

    I would hate to see any pulling back or sanitizing, that would just be unfortunate for everyone, especially readers. So, I agree completely on that fact. However, the author has still constructed a world in which males rape because a biological agent increases their natural tendency to rape while increasing the woman’s natural submission. I think that’s pretty simplistic. Men are no more enslaved to biological urges in any direction than women are.

    How the story of the protagonists in Gann play out against that backdrop is a different matter. And again, I’d have to do another reading for things I missed. I can’t consider my thoughts and opinions on this book settled by any means.

    The juxtaposition between Smith’s kick-ass female characters and the subtext of sexual submission is one I’m still thinking about. There’s a great deal of tension and contradiction there. I loved Amber, for all the reasons noted by others. And I agree that toward the end, Meoraq does arrive at a different place with respect to other women, but I would need another reading to decide whether he does that for Amber’s sake or whether he really transformed his belief.

    I’m not (yet) convinced Smith intended to address the issues of the ways women are marginalized during tough times which I say, at this point, only because I need another reading of the book. One intense marathon reading is not enough to parse through a text as dense with issues (in the best of senses) as this one.

  20. Anne V
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 06:43:32

    I am so happy to see this review and discussion, because I loved The Last Hour of Gann, especially the world building, and how Amber is so stubbornly herself. Also, lizardman = yay, especially that particular one.

    Did anyone else read Cottonwood? It came between Heat & Last Hour, and I don’t remember any rape in it – definite menace/threats of, yes. Hmm. Now I will re-read.

  21. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 09:51:32

    I don’t disagree with any of the comments about the plausibility of rape in a war zone or any dangerous situation. It’s not that I think rape is unlikely or unrealistic or too shocking to include. I argued last week in favor of a YA book about sexual abuse. I’m not interested in fake-happy stories that depict gender equality and ignore reality. I’ve also dealt with sexual violence in my books in ways that have disturbed some readers. These are important conversations to have and important topics to address, in fiction and out.

    Even rape-as-titillation (which is what I think this author did in Heat) isn’t something I consider off limits. But there is a difference between portraying rape as horrible act and including repeated, detailed scenes of rape as sexy entertainment. I’d rather avoid the second.

    Although I believe Jane and Carolyn when they say this book isn’t like Heat, I’m still wary. Because I disagree with Pamelia about the titillation factor in Heat. The murder scenes (ripping someone’s head off) aren’t designed to arouse. I don’t think. They aren’t gendered. And the alien has a reason for murdering people, because he’s on earth to harvest brain matter. What reason does he have for making the heroine give ten men bjs before he kills them? Does that make their brain matter more valuable? I also disagree with Carolyn that Kane was portrayed as sympathetic. I didn’t think there was any attempt to make him sympathetic in the 60% I read.

    The author might be doing brilliant things I can’t fully comprehend, and I admire her ability to elicit such strong reactions. But the way she writes rape, and women as objects to be raped, is a dealbreaker for me.

  22. Dabney Grinnan
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 10:08:22

    Here’s what Lee herself writes about the connection between sex and violence:

    http://rleesmith.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/hot-and-deadly-hop-begins/

    In this she writes,

    Because deep in the unevolved part of our brains, violence = passion = sex. The more passionate the passion, the hotter the sex, so it follows that the hottest men have the highest body count.

  23. pamelia
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 10:54:22

    “And the alien has a reason for murdering people, because he’s on earth to harvest brain matter. What reason does he have for making the heroine give ten men bjs before he kills them? Does that make their brain matter more valuable?”
    @ Jill Sorenson: Since the brain matter is dopamine, the levels of which increase due to sex/violence, I think the answer to that is yes. I can’t fault anyone for not being able to finish a book (I myself have DNF’d or outright hated several books others hold up as paragons of literature). I think “Heat” could definitely be an impossible book for some readers to enjoy, but it still ranks as one of my favorite books ever. “Gann” might or might not surpass it in my reading-ranking — that remains to be seen and will probably require a re-read of both books.
    @ Anne V.: I read and loved “Cottonwood”. I think in some ways it is maybe the best love story Smith has written in that the relationship between Sarah and Sanford grows so gradually and profoundly through the story. There is rape in the book although IIRC it was off page and only the after effects (which were pretty devastating) were explored. What I loved most about the book was the exploration of how we treat those we don’t understand (the aliens). I still think that what Smith does in her books is highlight and perhaps exaggerate the “mans’ inhumanity to man” scenarios, although people can be pretty darned evil in real life. Her books are never a comfort, but I still find them uplifting in many ways.

  24. Deljah
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 11:47:12

    @Dabney Grinnan:

    I recommend everyone to read the entire post that Dabney quoted. It’s very interesting and has other points that are enlightening to the discussion.

  25. Dabney Grinnan
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 12:17:25

    @Deljah: I thought so too. Her blog has little information about her–it’s mostly excerpts from her works–but what she does have is interesting.

  26. jane
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 12:28:53

    @Dabney Grinnan: and @Deljah: I must be missing something. The monsters are sexy seems like such a glib response to this issue. I expected something more careful from her, but instead it actually served to reduce my wonderment at her writing. Perhaps she is just writing regressive unthinking science fiction. Too bad.

  27. amg
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 12:48:50

    I read Gann, and couldn’t put it down, but as noted above, there were some parts that were very difficult to read. Amber’s captivity was harrowing, and I had to skim certain parts, as the rapes were described almost too well. I found it creepy that she discovered more about Lizard anatomy with her rapist than w/M. (However, it may have been that her rapist was more comfortable with ‘perversion’ or kinks that were taboo in their society). I felt hopeful that their society would be changing for the better, due to M’s changed perspective and Amber’s personality. It would not be immediate.

    Another issue that bothered me was the constant fat shaming of Amber, by her sister, society, and the survivors. Had earth become a society of aerobics instructors and Cross-fit trainers? It was like some of the humans had never seen an over-weight person before. I understand that Scott later used her weight/food to control Amber, but it seemed like such an accepted prejudice. No one ever protested. M never cared about her weight, or mentioned it, as I recall.

    This leads me into an agreement with a comment above, where Scott’s leadership skills were never demonstrated. The survivors were so passive. When Amber proposed hunting, they turned on her like she was crazy. Even fairly junior military members are trained for leadership/survival skills. The lack of action from the surviving Fleet members felt like a plot contrivance.

    Basically, as I said on twitter, I was both attracted and repelled by this novel. I vowed never to read the author again. But I lied! I bought Cottonwood and devoured it. (not as epic as Gann, but with a sweeter love story.) I don’t think I can take Heat. Just not my cup of tea.

  28. Dabney Grinnan
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 13:32:16

    @jane: I had the same thought although it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book.

  29. Deljah
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 13:40:22

    @jane:

    I got more from her post than a “glib” monsters are sexy concept. My reading of that post informed me as to her very long-standing love of horror, her views about the mixture of horror and violence with sex and attraction in various forms of media, how some women are attracted to media representations of bad boys/dangerous men/monsters (using Edward of Twilight, for example, who had killed before and could kill again at any time). How we might love to read, see or fantasize about bad boys/dangerous men/monsters/killers, but would probably never want actually to meet or be in a relationship with these bad boys/dangerous men/monsters/killers. She talked about her viewpoints on the widespread appeal of these characters, etc. From that perspective, it wasn’t that different from many viewpoints that I’ve read elsewhere across romancelandia. It did set a context for what informs her writing, which is good to keep in mind, especially the horror aspect, in my opinion.

    Someone in the comments even chimed in about the much beloved To Have and To Hold by Patricia Gaffney as another example horrible heroes, which I found interesting as well.

  30. Diana
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 14:57:49

    So, is this only available on Amazon? I’d like to read, but I need something in the ePub format — like from Smashwords or Barnes and Noble.

  31. Jane
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 14:58:28

    @Diana: I’m trying to email Smith. Her books used to be at Smashwords.

  32. Jane
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 15:19:52

    @Diana – per Smith’s site http://rleesmith.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/hump-day-hook-94/comment-page-1/#comment-824

    Okay, to answer your question, I recently joined forces with an indie publisher who assures me my books, all of them, were submitted to Nook, Smashwords, Kobo and Apple two weeks ago, BUT it could still be six weeks before they show up, thanks to their Puritan attitude toward erotica. If they decide my stuff is too smutty (and I have interspecies sex in every one) I may be consigned to adult filter hell, unavailable to browsers unless they have my URL for each book.

    I disagree with her. She could have easily published with Smashwords and had before. I hadn’t realized she had pulled them.

  33. Jo
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 16:18:22

    @Jane Yeah, I expected her work to be at Smashwords, First place I went tbh. I would like to buy both Gann and Heat but I don’t buy through Amazon. Not sure why it would be an issue putting them up at Smashwords, hopefully it happens as I am very curious about both books :)

  34. Diana
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 16:51:09

    @Jane: Thanks for digging up that info! Appreciate it. I’m also surprised about her having trouble publishing with Smashwords. But I guess I will wait and see if the book shows up anywhere besides Amazon.

  35. Joy B
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 19:03:51

    I would buy this now if it was available in ePub; although I have the kindle app, I don’t buy from Amazon. Odds of me remembering to look for it and buy in the future are slim.

  36. Jane
    Oct 14, 2013 @ 19:55:12

    The book is available here DRM free in mobi,epub and PDF.

    http://www.blushingbooks.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=2540

  37. Jo
    Oct 14, 2013 @ 21:24:21

    Thank You very much Jane. Went straight over and bought it. Now downloaded to the ipad and ready to read. :)

  38. Jan B
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 10:21:06

    I had one smallish issue, and maybe its because I’ve been more into contemporary books lately, but I wanted more pages of the mundane part of their being together at the end, ie, the getting back home, meeting his brothers, the BABY, etc. without the life and death moments every 5 pages, but other than that it was a great book.

  39. Mandi’s New Favorite Book–The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith | Smexy Books
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 11:00:22

    […] Dear Author (A-) Romance Around the Corner (DNF) The Passionate Reader (A-) […]

  40. pamela1740
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 11:30:16

    I’m intrigued by the invocation of THE IRON DUKE and LORD IAN MACKENZIE — do you see any parallels with these heroes specifically and/or the problematizing of romance heroes by giving them controversial or uncomfortable attributes? Or is it more of a case of being captivated — eg. the reading experience itself, that parallels those two books for you?

    This sounds like it would be a tough read for me. I can’t really do harrowing these days, much as I admire audacious and captivating world-building. I can’t tell if Smith is asking readers to go on this journey with her in order to deconstruct and interrogate these passion/violence/dark heroes/monsters assumptions, or simply to entertain those who are entertained by it. I guess the answer may be that both of these things are going on with this book, and in its reception.

    Also, re. the cover: Is that his chest or his back?

  41. Jane
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 18:58:41

    @pamela1740: Those are just two books that remain on a revolving favorite list. They do have different types of heroes although I don’t know if I see a lot of similarities.

  42. Kate Pearce
    Oct 18, 2013 @ 01:43:09

    I was enthralled by this book and couldn’t put it down. I was aware of the odd itch to edit it down a bit, but overall was able to just enjoy the world building and characters. Whoever thought a lizardman could be such a complex wonderful hero?
    I too had problems with Heat along the same lines as Jill S, and found the middle section of the book so deliberately titillating and sexually graphic that it all blended into a big old pile of nothing, although the end of the book did improve things.
    Gann, also made me think but overall I enjoyed it a lot more. I will enjoy rereading at a slower pace and enjoying it again in a different way.

  43. » The Last Hour of Gann Readalong: Intro Flight into Fantasy
    Oct 18, 2013 @ 22:32:06

    […] Gann, a self-published erotic horror novel by R. Lee Smith. I’ve read many reactions to it, from effusive praise to reasons why it’s a DNF to “WTF lizard man pr0n? Are you on crack?” Here’s […]

  44. Reptile Romance – The TL:DR Edition | Love in the Margins
    Oct 20, 2013 @ 07:01:25

    […] been a very long 48 hours in Romanceland. Between Jack The Ripper / Skirt Flipper  and That Book With The Lizard Lead my social media feeds have been hopping. On Monday night, after way too many […]

  45. Pamela
    Oct 22, 2013 @ 09:24:45

    I wanted to swing back by this post and thank you for this post – I picked this book up after seeing discussion surrounding this review, and DEVOURED it. I can honestly say that the way this story played out led to one of the most rewarding conclusions in a book I’ve ever read. I tried to recap the things in my mind I was affected by the most, and simply couldn’t. So many profound things happen that truly made me think. And the way the story is concluded in the last book IS A MA ZING. The characters. The world building. The drama. The science vs religion discussions. The creepy settings of those Ancient cities. THE HERO. The heroine who is a million times stronger than I could ever be. I just LOVED this freaking book and despite it being 900+ pages I wanted more. I just don’t know what to do with myself now that it’s over. I guess re-read :) While I understand Heat and Cottonwood are totally different, I’ve purchased them to read as well. Nervous about Heat, but definitely intrigued to see what the discussion is about as I’d never heard of either before now.

  46. Book Club: The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith
    Nov 15, 2013 @ 10:02:07

    […] I’ve spent probably a few thousand words chatting via email with various readers about this book so I knew it would be a great topic for discussion. Because I have a lot of admiration for Smith’s work, I was not hesitant to ask her difficult questions and her candor and forthrightness really impressed me. You may not agree with everything she says but that’s okay. We’re here to discuss the book.  Here’s my review. […]

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