Title: The Hunt
Author: Andrew Fukuda
Genre: Dystopia, Horror, Post-Apocalypse, Young Adult, Vampires
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (US) / Simon & Schuster (UK)
Publication Date: May 2012
Hardcover: 293 Pages (US)
Don’t Sweat. Don’t Laugh. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And most of all, whatever you do, do not fall in love with one of them.
Gene is different from everyone else around him. He can’t run with lightning speed, sunlight doesn’t hurt him and he doesn’t have an unquenchable lust for blood. Gene is a human, and he knows the rules. Keep the truth a secret. It’s the only way to stay alive in a world of night—a world where humans are considered a delicacy and hunted for their blood.
When he’s chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt the last remaining humans, Gene’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble around him. He’s thrust into the path of a girl who makes him feel things he never thought possible—and into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing. Now that Gene has finally found something worth fighting for, his need to survive is stronger than ever—but is it worth the cost of his humanity?
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in The Hunt series
How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher
Why did I read this book: I am always a little wary when books are pitched as the next Hunger Games (or any super-popular series/film/book), but in the case of The Hunt, I was intrigued. I liked the I Am Legend/Daybreakers sound to the novel – plus the last post-apocalyptic vampire-like monster novel I read was kind of awesome (see The Passage). I’d also heard some great things about Andrew Fukuda’s prior novel, so, obviously, I was so very in.
Since birth, Gene has known that he must be careful. With the careful guidance of his father and a strict code of rules – no facial expressions, no sweating, careful hygiene rituals every day to mask their scent – he has managed to survive in a world where he is the lone outcast. An animal. A meal. A dirty heper.
Should he forget any of these rules, even for an instant, it will mean his sudden, violent death – just as his mother and sister were killed, and just as his father was killed. He lives a simple, solitary existence and avoids drawing attention to himself…until the day a rare Heper Hunt is announced. A tradition that sparks the bloodlust of the people, the Heper Hunt is a dream come true for any normal person. Hepers – those delicious, blood-filled creatures that look like people but aren’t people – have long been thought to be extinct, so the announcement of a hunt sets the world achatter. A lottery will be held to select those who will be honored with the ability to participate in the hunt – and Gene’s number is called as one of the lucky few.
Whisked away to prepare for the hunt, Gene’s life has never been in a more precarious position and it is only a matter of time before his secret is out. His only hope might be with the few Hepers that are the prey for the hunt, and a girl – whom he calls Ashley June – that could eviscerate him in an instant.
The Hunt is a completely…unexpected book. Blending familiar elements from the current crop of dystopian and YA fiction (e.g. vampires, a national lottery that involves a hunt to the death of humans, slightly lovestruck teenage protagonists), Andrew Fukuda’s novel is both familiar and distinctly alien, both in substance and in theme. On the most basic level, I loved the otherness of these…well, for lack of a better word, vampires (though they simply call themselves people). There are certain vampire conventions that are upheld – the fangs, the sleeping upsidedown in bat-like fashion, the deathly/combustible reaction to sunlight, the strength and speed – but for the most part, vampires are very different in The Hunt than their traditional counterparts. While they have a set society, in which kids go to school and participate in extracurricular activities, a ruling leader and a governing structure that resembles human civilization, vampires are also markedly different from humans in other ways. Everything from their mannerisms to their diet is slightly different. For example, there is no such thing as smiling or laughing; rather, wrist scratching is used to convey amusement. Vampires have no formal names or singular identities, either; instead, people are referred to by where they sit in class, or the position they hold or occupation they fulfill (even our protagonist remains nameless throughout the book, until near the end when a lost memory surfaces). Other differences abound, too – apparently vampires are terrified of the water (or being submerged underwater), apparently they don’t sweat, and so on.
This oddness juxtaposed against the familiarity of almost-human tendencies for the most part works, but to varying degrees of efficacy. There are some scenes which are verge on the comical (most notably, in the vampric version of seven minutes in heaven, elbows and armpits are involved, which is…interesting and I’m not quite sure why or how that works as it’s never explained), and on a larger level, I’m a little uncertain as to how this world actually fits together. Do the vampires procreate (and how do they do so)? It also seems like they age like humans, going through childhood and adolescence and then reaching adulthood. They eat regular food, but also like to drink blood (I’m not quite sure how that works either). Upon close scrutiny, the rules and tenets are even more porous – for example, how on earth did our young narrator get through childhood and puberty without a single pimple? How could a female human “pass” for vampire at the onset of puberty, when bleeding on a monthly cycle is kind of a dead giveaway signifying heper status?
Needless to say, there’s a lot of suspension of disbelief that is asked of readers.
But *if* you can get past some of the more glaring questions in terms of worldbuilding and plausibility, The Hunt is an incredibly entertaining book, with a solid protagonist. I love the Matheson-esque I am Legend (the original story, not the movie) feel to the novel and to our hero Gene, as he is, to the best of his knowledge, the lone human in a world that is full of a new kind of people. He is legend. With that realization comes a palpable isolation that seeps through Gene’s narration – never being able to let anyone in, never being able to relax or let down his guard, Gene is utterly, totally alone. He even thinks of himself as a monster, and wishes more than anything that he was a “normal person”. This self-loathing and inversion of “monster” versus “normal” is incredibly clever and I think done very well by Fukuda – this is an effective metaphor for high school, for otherness, and for anyone that has ever felt marginalized by their very nature.
And beyond the strength of character, there’s also an undeniable popcorn-ish appeal to the story itself. The training for the hunt, the revelations, and the fast-paced action and story make for a very quick read. There are some pretty outlandish twists along the way (particularly at the end of the novel), but it’s all very fun and exciting, if slightly manic and not particularly plausible. I was willing to push aside my skepticism and enjoy the ride.
And ultimately, that’s what it comes down to in the case of a book like The Hunt – it’s all about how much you enjoyed the experience. Personally? I find myself entertained and my own crazy vampire-action bloodlust sated. I’ll be around for book 2.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From the official excerpt:
THERE USED TO be more of us. I’m certain of this. Not enough to fill a sports stadium or even a movie theater, but certainly more than what’s left today. Truth is, I don’t think there’s any of us left. Except me. It’s what happens when you’re a delicacy. When you’re craved. You go extinct.
Eleven years ago, one was discovered in my school. A kindergarten student, on her first day. She was devoured almost immediately. What was she thinking? Maybe the sudden (and it’s always sudden) loneliness at home drove her to school under some misbegotten idea that she’d find companionship. The teacher announced nap time, and the little tyke was left standing alone on the floor clutching her teddy bear as her classmates leaped feetfirst toward the ceiling. At that point, it was over for her. Over. She might as well have taken out her fake fangs and prostrated herself for the inevitable feasting. Her classmates stared down wide-eyed from above: Hello, what have we here? She started to cry, they tell me, bawl her eyes out. The teacher was the first to get to her.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: Make sure to stop by and check out Andrew Fukuda’s guest post, in which he talks about his (very fitting!) Inspirations & Influences for The Hunt. We’re also giving away 5 copies of the book (UK only).
Make sure to check out the other subsequent stops on the blog tour for other goodies.
Rating: 6 – Good
Reading Next: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
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