I was really lazy with reading last year, I’m ashamed to admit. There was just so much cool stuff on telly (I blame you, Walter White). But I wanted to get back into reading and reviewing this year, because books are awesome and I miss them. So I’ve started off the year with a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while now, The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda.
The Hunt has a great premise: our world has been taken over by vampires (not that the V word is ever mentioned, but there’s no doubt about what these sun-hating bloodsuckers are), with humankind hunted almost to the point of extinction. Those humans who remain survive by hiding in plain sight – living amongst their predators and in constant terror that their true identity will be revealed. Don’t smile. Don’t blush. Don’t sweat. Don’t cry. If you’re found out then your life ends in the most brutal fashion imaginable, because human blood is like a drug to the vampires, driving them into a frenzy and causing them to tear their poor victims to shreds before devouring them.
One of the surviving humans – or hepers, as they are known – is Gene, a 17-year-old boy who does his best to fit in at a school full of vampires. Admittedly it’s a bit of a stretch that nobody has discovered him for what he truly is – given that hepers smell extremely potent to vampires – but this is where the excitement of the book lies. Fukuda does an amazing job of ratcheting up the tension, because if Gene makes the slightest mistake then it’s game over. It’s palpable, and it keeps you right on the edge of your seat.
The book steps into Hunger Games territory with the concept of the titular Hunt. In order to keep the population content, the Ruler arranges a Neroesque annual tournament where vampires are selected by lottery to hunt, kill and eat a handful of unfortunate humans. Inevitably, Gene’s number comes up, and together with a bunch of bloodthirsty vampires he is brought to the hunt headquarters to begin his training. What follows are some absolutely nailbiting moments of anxiety and horror as Gene tries to keep his identity a secret with the walls rapidly closing in around him. It’s here that Gene also discovers some unexpected truths about the surviving hepers and the society he lives in…
The Hunt is a fast-paced, action-packed thrill ride that boys and girls will love. Gene is a great character, and Fukuda’s world building is fantastic. He obviously spent a great deal of time getting to know his vampires because their odd mannerisms are believable and disturbing – the scratching of wrists as a substitute for laughter was incredibly creepy! You feel immersed, which isn’t always a good thing when the world you’re immersed in is so terrifying.
I also love the fact that these are proper vampires – there’s no sparklyness going on here. These guys will tear you to strips and suck the marrow from your bones. It’s my favourite thing about the novel – the concept of a bloodlust so overpowering that vampires will run to their deaths in the sunshine if they so much as catch a whiff of heper blood. It is genuinely terrifying. It’s also the one thing that threatened to ruin the book for me, because (and this is a minor spoiler), at one point Fukuda overrides his vampire’s bloodlust, allowing them to control it in order to get his heroes out of a bad situation. I’m pretty sure you can’t change the rules like that when it comes to bad guys!! It was a disappointing moment in an otherwise faultless book, though, and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment.
Highly recommended! Four out of five skulls.