M. Suddain, Hunters & Collectors, Jonathan Cape, 2016.
Though Hunters & Collectors lacks a bit of substance, it is a very enjoyable scifi novel with a grisly baroque comical twist to it that will certainly delight anyone looking for something entertaining to read.
Jonathan Tamberlain is a food critic, nicknamed the Tomahawk, who hasn't made a lot of friends in his career. His dream is to go eat to The Undersea, a restaurant set in a mysterious and hidden hotel. He feels he may be close to discovering its location when everything goes horribly wrong. And then even more horribly wrong.
Despite enjoying reading Hunters & Collectors, I must admit I have some really mixed feelings and it took me a long time to decide whether I'd review it or not.
Is it original and well written? I have a nuanced response to this.
It's a novel by letter and by diary, which changes from the usual and gives a real insight into Jonathan, the main character. And, by Jove! Finally a recent novel that doesn't do alternative points of view! On the other hand, a novel by letter and by diary isn't exactly ground breaking.
Another good point is that having a main character as a food critic isn't your usual standard hero in scifi. But the futuristic tourist venue gone wrong has already been done (there's Dreampark by Niven and Barnes - on my to-be-read list - and, obviously, Westworld and Jurassic Park).
Overall, the pace is lively and the novel also creates great grisly baroque and/or comical scenes. It is an adventure story in futuristic settings that aims to be entertaining and it succeeds at it.
Jonathan Tamberlain, the main character, is a pretty pathetic human being. He's self absorbed, lacks empathy and doesn't refrain from saying a few times mysoginistic and homophobic remarks. To compensate for such a character, the two secondary characters feel a bit like a diversity bullet list (one kick-arse woman, check ; one gay man, check). On one hand, they're a counterpoint for Jonathan and are used effectively, on the other it can feel as if Suddain is neither here nor there with his characters.
Happily, there are enough distancing and comical effects so that a reader can engage nonetheless. Jonathan is often bumbling in slighty surreal situations that escape his control and, more than once, you feel he gets his just deserts... but it can also defeat a bit the purpose of life and death moments.
The main theme of Hunters and Collectors is of smoke and mirrors. At times, it is handled very well, with the use of the ancient original meaning of a Carnival and a proletariat revolt thrown in. At others, it can feel awkward because it's a bit heavy handed, a bit out of the blue, and the ending may not feel completely satisfying even if it's in keeping with the theme.
Hunters & Collectors is one of those books where you think "It ain't much but it's fun". It's a lively and well written adventure that makes great use of its scifi setting and can often be funny. So if you want to spend an entertaining moment or if you need something while waiting for the second series of Westworld, then it's the right book for you.
The writer's website.
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