Friday, September 21, 2018

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

NOTE: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those above the age of majority.

Based on true events – which I didn’t know – The Hunger is a fictionalised story of a group of pioneers, known as the Donner party, travelling westward, with an added supernatural element.

The journey through a harsh terrain and in inclement weather conditions is full of hardships, exacerbated by bad choices made out of ignorance – sometimes wilful – and stubbornness of incompetent leadership.

The people at first appear to be mostly strangers, but the connections, past and present, between them slowly unravel over the course of the story, unveiling their diverse backgrounds, views, ambitions, and experience. With superstition and distrust abound, it doesn’t take long for the tensions to arise between such a collection of people and in-fighting to begin, culminating in fear that overrides reason and leads to the group’s ultimate demise.

For there is something else trailing the party. Hunger. And not just the one caused by the dwindling supplies.

There is something evil watching, lying in wait, splitting the group into smaller parts to make them an easier prey. Something with teeth and claws. A pack of wild wolves, some say. Monsters from natives’ myths. Or perhaps the monsters are just men. Might be neither. Might be all of the above.

The answers, all through to the final one, are never quite what you would expect, as nothing is ever black and white. And in that lies the true horror of The Hunger.

Masterfully told, The Hunger is eerie and gory (I wouldn’t recommend reading either on an empty or a full stomach; pick some healthy middle), but also wondrously poignant, showing the best and the worst of people when faced with evil, without and within.

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