Hunter's Run by George R R Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham

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Hunter's Run by George R R Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A man runs from a murder and finds himself a pawn in a large chase sequence in a slightly old-school but effective sci-fi story.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 380 Date: September 2007
Publisher: HarperVoyager
ISBN: 978-0007260218

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We meet Ramon Espejo running from a murder he has committed. Funnily enough, people look askance on him stabbing an important diplomat in an alleyway behind a bar, however much vindication there might have been for his actions.

Deciding his catty relationship with his girlfriend and the potential of police attention are good enough reasons, he gets his flying van fixed, and heads off into the unexplored areas of the world to follow his unsuccessful prospecting career. These areas are many - this being a planet colonised by people from Brazil, Mexico and similar areas of Latin America, and not fully developed by any means.

Ramon's being the first human there does not mean he is the first creature there at all, and he encounters an alien, Maneck - and his race, buried in a hillside. What this leads to is a little unfortunate, at first - a lot of Maneck using Ramon to explore what it means to be human - the need to urinate, defecate, swear, and eat such unlikely things as freshly-caught mammals being alien to Maneck's race.

However before this gets to be too much of a flash-back to 1970s sci-fi, the novel finds a purpose, and Ramon finds himself used by Maneck for something much more entertaining. It leads to a very well-told story of flight, fight and dependence on natural instinct. Naturally it leads to Ramon finding further ways in which he is alien to Maneck - and even perhaps to himself. The reader is however able at all times to discard the philosophical side to the story, which is by no means as woolly as it could have been, and engage in the epic story of the unlikely couple's travels, told from within a fully realised ecology.

A lot of this book seems to promise little - the fact that it is a collaboration between three writers might put people off - and the fact that one of those hasn't been seen in the brightest of lights elsewhere on the Bookbag site more so. A short essay after the book by an unnamed editor tells of how the story has come to its current state (and gives spoilers), and again this sounds like bad news - the fact that people have an idea decades ago and it never forms a finished product might suggest it didn't deserve to become a novel anyway.

Also, the start of the book is possibly the worst ten per cent of it - with the reasons for the murder left untold, the dodgy relationship seemingly just that - dodgy, and with no real reason for its existence, either in the protagonist's lives nor in the book. After a bright spell the way Maneck hangs around watching Ramon take a leak, trap food, sleep, spit invective (and, er, spit) at him becomes too much, and nothing particularly enlightening to those who have read much sci-fi, but the well-told crux of the plot soon comes along.

From then on whichever of the three authors are handling the word processor is on firm territory, with the saga of the titular run being a very enjoyable story. The pacing is fine, as well - the further large twist is top-notch; the fact that Ramon is by the quest's nature expendable is just briefly touched on - as we knew that from the off; and the real cliff-hangers come up at just the right time, making this a very readable novel, despite some clunky sections.

In telling the story of imperilled people chased through a well-realised countryside, with a well-told narrative telling of all their trials and tribulations, I was put in mind of Barry England's Figures in a Landscape, which is a high recommendation. I recognise the artistic and intelligent extras the book gives us - the nature of Ramon's very character is a crux of the whole story, but the psychological side is never forced upon us at all in any shape or form.

This makes the book readable for the simple chase thrill, and also for the depth the three collaborators have given all the characters, as they successfully manage to go beyond any easy way out in telling the adventure, and make it a rounded story about, you know, themes and things.

The fact that those themes and things are not flagged up at all is of course a good thing, but the way the book introduces them in an uninteresting and quiet way in the beginning is to its detriment. I also remain not keen on Maneck's scientific research of Ramon and humans, at least before the reason for it is fully clear. That and the fact I'm talking of a £19 hardback is why it only gets four stars.

I would still recommend the book, though, and would suggest to all sci-fi fans that the story is explored. It might have fore-runners from within the genre and elsewhere, but it remains a novel story, told well - with no gaps in authorship showing. I'm glad the book isn't a 500-page effort as one of the bonus extras included suggests might have arisen, for at a pacy and large-print 380pp it's much better off.

Hunter's Run is a gripping and intelligent novel that people who aren't genre fans would find much in. I might well have found myself giving a paperback copy four and a half stars, so I am very grateful to the publishers for giving the Bookbag a copy to read.

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