Author: Andrew Fukuda (author website | blog)
Release Date: May 10th 2012 by Simon & Schuster
Age Group: Young Adult
Chilling, creepy, visceral and exciting, Andrew Fukuda's The Hunt is many things: Dystopian, paranormal, survivalist fantasy—but mainly, it's good.
Against all odds, 17-year-old Gene has survived in a world where humans have been eaten to near extinction by the general population. The only remaining humans, or hepers as they are known, are housed in domes on the savannah and studied at the nearby Heper Institute. Every decade there is a government sponsored hunt. When Gene is selected to be one of the combatants he must learn the art of the hunt but also elude his fellow competitors whose suspicions about his true nature are growing.
The Story:In a world where 'people' are not at all like you and I lives a 17 year old boy named Gene. Gene is many things: A survivor, an expert at deception, but most of all a freak. Instead of fangs, he has unsharpened incisors. While the sun makes 'people' melt and disintegrate, Gene can withstand ceaseless daylight. Instead of a healthy diet of blood and raw meat, Gene needs water and fruit to survive. Gene is a freak. A heper. A human. And if people knew what he was, he would be something else entirely: dead in seconds.
For seventeen years Gene has evaded detection by following the rules: don’t blink, don't sneeze, don’t cough, laugh or smile, and he's done well. But then The Ruler announces something extraordinary: a Heper Hunt, the first in ten years. Chosen by lottery to be one of the 'lucky' hunters—one the last to ever taste extremely endangered heper flesh—Gene must use all his tricks to survive. Cut off from proper food, water and deodorant—all the things he needs to blend in—the other hunters are beginning to smell something... Well, not fishy. Something far, far more delicious...
My Thoughts:Fukuda’s ‘People’—for people is what they are in this world, and you will not see them referred to otherwise—are not quite vampires. More like the unholy love child of a vampire/zombie/human union: they think, they reason, they can, in fact, reproduce, and live normal, healthy lives. They are, in many ways, just like you and me, yet in others they are so very alien it borders on bizarre.They crave human flesh with unbridled hunger. They possess no control, and they have no internal struggle or moral quandaries to romanticise. These people would like nothing less than to tear your arms from your sockets and slurp your brain up like soup. Yet they are not so different. They have families, schools, parties and children. Teens have boyfriends and girlfriends. Friends share jokes. It’s amongst these ‘people’ that we find Gene, and start to question what, exactly, ‘human’ means.
Gene is a fascinating character study, a walking, talking, dichotomy—a lesson in Doublethink. He lives by careful rules: don't be caught out by the monsters, remember who you are—human—different from the monsters, better, all while, in some dark, secret place, longing to be a 'real' person, himself.
Gene’s humanity is an interesting thing. More than desire, longing, desperation, one thing has been deeply ingrained into the fibre of his very being: survive. At any cost—any length—survive. This need to survive can manifest itself in very ugly ways. If a human is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone for his own survival, what does that say about his humanity? Has he lost what it means to be human, or is it that need to survive, that tenacity and determination to cling to life despite the most desperate of circumstance, what makes him—and us—human, instead?
So The Hunt poses an interesting question: what is ‘human’? People mercilessly hunt hepers. They are cold, calculating, cruel; but is this any different from shark and seal, or lion and antelope? Is it different from humans and the billions of cattle, chickens, and sheep slaughtered each year to feed ‘humans’? So Fukuda asks us this: are People as bad as they sound, or just the top of the food chain? Is Gene himself any better? He leaves it to the reader to decide, and therein lies his brilliance. Fukuda's characters—even his heroes and heroines—are not always likeable, or easy to connect with, but it seems to be the point. They are flawed, at times ugly, but always interesting.
A steady, calculated creepiness and menace hang over The Hunt, and every page is coloured with a heavy sense of desperation. There are bigger games at play, and while the players have yet to reveal themselves, it becomes very clear Gene is a pawn. But this is where the comparisons to Chess or Checkers must stop. The Hunt is not a book of black and white, or perhaps even varying shades of grey. It’s a thick, muddy quagmire filled with hidden traps and dangers.
When Fukuda writes action, he holds nothing back. In contrast to Gene's carefully practiced facade, and the lingering sense of dread and foreboding that shrouds every word of The Hunt, every moment of flight, every fight, every suspicious glance ratchets up the tension and flies along at breakneck pace. Sharp and vivid, Fukuda writes with an emotive brilliance. The kind that will leave your throat parched and aching with Gene’s thirst, longing for rest, and scratching your wrist in laughter—oh, wait... you don’t have a funny bone there, either?