(2018) G.X. Todd, Headline, £16.99, hrdbk, 488pp, ISBN 978-1-472-23312-7
Hunted is the follow up to Defender, a book which created quite a stir when it was released last year. The story takes place in a near-future post-apocalyptic America. Some years before, massive numbers of the population began to hear voices which drove them to either kill others or to kill themselves, and as a result most of the population is dead and society as we know it has crumbled. Due to the fall in population, the world itself is in a pretty standard post-apocalyptic state – houses left to crumble, no electricity and therefore a lack of modern technology, no medical care. The voices are still present in some of the survivors, and form an integral part of the story.
Defender followed the story of Lacey, a teenage girl who had been living in isolation on her grandmother’s farm, and a man called Pilgrim. Pilgrim’s voice, known throughout the book as 'Voice', had persuaded him to take care of Lacey, who wanted to travel across country to find her sister. At the end of Defender, Lacey had not found her sister, but had found her niece and another woman by the name of Alex, who became a surrogate sister figure. Unfortunately, they had also encountered a dangerous group led by a man called Duchamp. Pilgrim was killed and Voice jumped to Lacey.
Hunted weaves together three different groups. The first includes Lacey, her niece Addison, and Voice. The second is led by a man called Albus (who is the brother of Ruby, a dead woman that Lacey and Pilgrim found in Defender). Albus is an unusual character. Mute from birth, he has synaesthesia, meaning that he hears in colour. He has built himself a small but tightly knit community. He also hears a voice, that of his sister Red (Ruby). Red pushes Albus to look for Lacey, though it is not clear why, other than a belief that Lacey is a potential saviour. Religion is an important theme in Hunted, and symbols pop up all over the place – crosses and crucifixion, the role of the church, the St Christopher that Lacey took from Red, which threads between all three groups.
The third group consists of the remnants of that led by Duchamp, in particular a man called Posy. In Defender, Lacey had attempted to befriend Posy, who she saw as damaged and alone but ultimately harmless. The Posy in this book is anything but. He now has his own voice driving him on, and his is a malignant and evil creature.
Both Albus and Posy are hunting Lacey, driven by their voices, each gathering an army about them, so Hunted is really a story of who will find her first, the good gang or the evil one. We see the true extent of the damage that the voices have done and learn about the world beyond Lacey’s viewpoint. Hunted also allows us to see how other survivors are coping with the new world that they find themselves in. The book is stunningly well written, the characters well defined and interesting, and there are moments of true horror within its pages. For those who like their world-building dark and their description of humanity on the edge even darker, this book will be a must -read.
The flip side of that is that if you are a reader with a limited appetite for gore, the book may not work as well for you. I found the descriptions of mutilated bodies sometimes a bit overwhelming and this made Hunted a difficult read in places.
Overall, Hunted is excellent, but a book I would recommend with a content warning for readers of a sensitive disposition.
See also Ian's take on Hunted.
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