Release Date: May 10th 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster AUS / St. Martin's Griffin US
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Buy it: Amazon / The Book Depository
Against all odds, 17-year-old Gene has survived in a world where humans have been eaten to near extinction by the general population. The only remaining humans, or hepers as they are known, are housed in domes on the savannah and studied at the nearby Heper Institute. Every decade there is a government sponsored hunt. When Gene is selected to be one of the combatants he must learn the art of the hunt but also elude his fellow competitors whose suspicions about his true nature are growing.
Humans no longer dominate the world. Our kind are nearly extinct, while another has risen to the top of the food chain. And 17 year old Gene is not one of them. He's a human, a heper, playing a dangerous game where every day he pretends he's like everyone else. He goes through the motions - the fake fangs, the meticulous shaving, constantly pushing down his own emotions in fear of letting slip the hint of a smile or a frown. His good looks draw unwanted attention, but he tries to downplay his intelligence, because in order to survive he needs to fly under the radar. If people notice him, they may see that bead of sweat on his forehead and realise the tantalising scent of heper is coming from him. He just wants to be normal and in this world, normal is like them. It's understandable, this desire, because it has got to be so tiring, so lonely living the life he does in solitude. His family have all gone and so it's just him, never sharing his humanity with anyone, constantly having to guard his secret. It's a sad way of life and you can't help but feel for him. But I can't deny there were a few moments when I was shaking my first at him, he's obviously adapt at the lying game, I just wish he hadn't lied about something to certain people!
Because fate so obviously has not had it's fill of cruelty against humanity, Gene is one of the lucky, lucky citizens whose numbers are selected in the lottery. The grand prize? Why, he's given the opportunity to partake in The Heper Hunt! Where the last remaining humans (secretly raised and studied at The Heper Institute) will be unleashed in an exhilarating game where the lottery winners get to hunt them down. The winner is determined by who devours the most humans/hepers. So not only is Gene going to have to hunt down his own kind, but the veil of secrecy he's hidden behind is beginning to thin and he has to work extra hard to make himself as un-heper-like as possible. The other hunters are growing suspicious.... and they're hungry with desire for some tasty human meat.
Gene's not entirely alone as he and the other hunters go through weeks of preparation for The Hunt. One of his classmates was also selected, Ashley June. A girl he once shared a brief, but lingering and intimate encounter with. A girl he has paid attention to every day since, but has never allowed himself to get close to. A girl who will sooner eat his heart if she knew the truth, than say the words, "I love you." I went through a range of emotions with Ashley, from suspicious to frustration to intrigue and to appreciation. As we grew to learn more about her, she presents many different and very surprising shades to her character...
I love the deliciously disturbing new creatures Andew Fukuda has brought to life. They're not specifically given a label, Gene just refers to them as 'normal people' because to him, they are the normal ones. They hold an essence of both vampire and zombie, with their uncontrollable taste for human flesh, aversion to sunlight and heightened senses, but they have their own unique and eerie quirks, like their way of laughing or what equates to a make-out session for their kind. Their bodies are obviously wired differently to ours, so stimulation doesn't work the same way. I found it fascinating to uncover their habits, strenghts and flaws. Yes, they sickened me, they ARE disturbing, but there's something so intriguing, so captivating when it comes to well-crafted creepiness.
Forget every book that has brainwashed you into thinking vampire-like creatures can be kind, soulful beings, tormented daily with the horror of their inner monster. Andew Fukuda holds nothing back as he paints a gritty, ugly and downright creepy new monster who has overtaken our world, one that relishes in it's bloodlust and disturbing lack of empathy. The Hunt is as thought-provoking as it is action-packed and entertaining. In a world where humans are nearly extinct, we do not turn away in fear, but rather fall deeper into this haunting story of our own demise, eager to see what will happen next, desperate for the last children of our race to fight on for survival, to beat the odds, because what we as humans all yearn for the most is hope. Even if that hope is so dangerously hard to find when you have an army of blood-crazy beasts hot on your heels.
4/5 Golden Apples!