The Hunt by Paul Bird

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The Hunt by Paul Bird

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Near future speculative story with themes of technology and social breakdown. Pacy, well-rounded characters and detailed worldbuilding.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 422 Date: January 2016
ISBN: 978-1786106650

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This is Britain after the Very Big Crash. Life is very different, especially if you live in one of the lower suburbs under the Local Government's authority. Cush lives in one such suburb. He works as a detective in the floating Krawczyk building and, though he thinks it himself, is pretty good at his job. His wife Samir doesn't work, even though she'd like to, and spends her days at home reading those most antiquated of things: books. Their son Nim is sixteen and is obsessed with a video game called The Hunt. Cush and Samir fall out constantly over their differing approaches to Nim's obsession.

The narrative follows Cush, as he works his latest case tracking down a group of subversives, and Nim, as he gets more and more deep into The Hunt. But both father and son are hunting their own respective quarries whilst unaware that behind them lies a much bigger hunt and a much bigger prize...

Ooh! I love a bit of near-future speculative dystopia. And so I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunt and its rather bleak look at a Britain following the Very Big Crash, in which the haves and the have nots are sharply delineated and in which technology is well on the way to ruling the roost.

It's not perfect. I found it a little heavy on the dialogue, which on occasion felt somewhat forced and clunky. Sometimes intimate, small-scale scenes are overly described. And I confess that I question the decision to open a Young Adult novel from the point of view of a world weary middle-aged man fed up with the amount of time his wife spends nagging. But these are really mere nitpicks because there is an awful lot to like in The Hunt.

It's pacey. I say that in two words but it's important to get along with the narrative and not spend too much time setting up your dystopian setting. Bird shows us the reality of his world through the aftermath of an argument between Cush and Samir. We see how it is to live in the dangerous, unhealthy lower estates. We see how order is breaking down and how people hark to a lost past. And we see how life is safer and easier in the upper suburbs but we also know immediately to suspect how fulfilling even the pampered lives in this world really are. And the story rattles on apace after that without ever lagging. The Hunt will keep you turning the page.

The three central characters are all fully-rounded and, while imperfect - aren't we all? - are all sympathetic. Cush wants a happy family, a contented wife and a fulfilled son. Samir wants all the things that people used to have but this new world denies her. And Nim - well, Nim wants to win and to earn the approval of his parents. They are a recognisable and relatable family.

The worldbuilding is full of clever little details, from the sentimental fakery of the lower estates and their mocky Tudor houses, through the historical costumes - Salvador Dali, anyone? - donned by the free-thinkers to the nominally-named sky, which floats up and down depending on how well the generators are performing at any particular time.

Underpinning it all are themes of the dangers of technological advances, warnings of the current, let alone future, instability in our financial systems, and a genuine look at what it means to be human. I found The Hunt a satisfying read.

If The Hunt appeals, you might also enjoy The Witness by James Jauncey or The Bad Tuesdays: Twisted Symmetry by Benjamin J Myers.

You can read more about Paul Bird here

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