This is a twisted, addictive and utterly compelling read, which will leave you confused and wanting. Why? Because despite the villain being a really evil, alien and extremely ruthless character, you can't help but root for him.
Kane is a slaver dealing in human traffic from a quarantined planet Earth and in extracting dopamine from our brain which allows him to make a powerful and very expensive drug Vahst.
Anyone remember Dark Angel, a film from the 90s? That's what the story reminded me of. However, Heat is so much darker, bloodier and grislier, that it will churn your stomach.
So the plot is pretty easy to follow (see synopsis), it's the dynamics between characters that remain the most fascinating part of the book.
Kane picks up Raven - his unwilling accomplice/victim/toy who would allow him to function through Heat pretty early. Raven is smart, sly and really wants to live, so she learns to adapt to her situation, and then perversely she starts feeling something for the mass murderer who tags her along. Kane is evil by our standards, he kills left, right and centre, and yet, just like Raven herself we can't help but feel sympathy for him. It's horrifying and revolting, but at the same time strangely compelling.
Tagen - a woefully unprepared Jotan officer of the law sent to Earth to catch Kane, on the other hand, is a walking disaster. His superiors don't have any information on Earth that is less than 5 centuries old, and they truly think that we still live like barbarians. They are unaware of our physiology, technological advances or intellect. Tagen very quickly understands that he will need human help and again tries to recruit the first human who doesn't attack him on sight - Daria.
Both Daria and Tagen are whitewashed, innately good characters, and consequently pretty boring. Tagen tries not to give in to Heat, and it's Daria who leads the investigation and who helps him to survive. I did enjoy Daria with her OCD, and I wanted her to be happy and the good guys to prevail in general, but it's Kane's parts that I was reading with bated breath.
It is a testament to the author's talent, that she manages not only to make us love the wrong hero, but creates an ending satisfactory on all fronts. I personally felt like this book deserved to be continued as a series, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It's not for everyone, but if you loved anything else R. Lee Smith wrote, this is a must read for you.