REVIEW: Hunter’s Run by George R.R. Martin, Gardener Dozois, & Daniel Abraham

REVIEW SUMMARY: A very good read that I might have enjoyed this even more if I hadn’t read the novella on which it is based.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An angry prospector is forced by aliens to hunt someone down.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: The core story is engaging; thought-provoking sf-nal ideas; clear, concise prose makes for easy reading.

CONS: Because I read the novella version, the extra material felt like padding.

BOTTOM LINE: A solid, well-constructed and wholly entertaining story.

A few years ago, I read an excellent novella called “Shadow Twin” that was co-written by George R.R. Martin, Gardener Dozois, and Daniel Abraham. Now, in the grand tradition of science fiction literature and marketing, that novella has been expanded into the novel-length story Hunter’s Run. I was curious. Does the novel hold up?


The core of the story remains the same: a prospector named Ramón Espejo is captured by aliens and forced to hunt down another human for them. A well-written version of that took the form of the novella. But a novel requires more than that and so stuff has been added; in this case, a whole lot of characterization and story background.

The characterization focuses on Ramón, so much so that Hunter’s Run can easily be considered a character study. Ramón is a complex character. His uncontrollable rage does not make him very likable but rather than being portrayed as a stereotypical, one-dimensional Angry Man, Ramón has added depth because he’s keenly aware of what a jerk he is. It’s this introspection – and the cool sf-nal circumstances that enable him to see himself through the eyes of others, both alien and human – that gives Ramón the opportunity to finally do something about it. He still may not be entirely likable by story’s end but at least he’s trying, which is all anyone can ask. We also see glimpses into Ramón’s personal life that weren’t there in the shorter version. Specifically, we see his tense and tenuous relationship with girlfriend Elena, who is politely described as a little crazy, but easily a match for Ramón, at least when considering her ability to argue.

Story background has also been beefed up for the novel. We still have Ramón tethered to the electronic leash of his alien captor, Maneck, but we get much more back story on Maneck’s species. We also get to see other aliens, the rock-like beings that rule the planet of San Paolo. This background is nicely infused with some dramatic tension through a murder subplot that not only gives motivation for the “hunter” plotline, but also allows the authors to wrap up Ramon’s self-discovery and desire to be a better man.

So, does the novel hold up? I have to admit that I was a little jaded going in. My impression of the novella was quite good and I was expecting an extended version of that core story. I was not quite prepared for the extra characterization and side stories. And as good additions as they were – and will undoubtedly be to uninitiated readers – I can’t help but feel that that it was padding. This despite some thought-provoking philosophical questions around that core sf-nal idea I’m trying hard not to spoil. Again, this feeling has more to with the evolution of the story from novella to novel than it does with anything else and ultimately is not a huge detriment. Hunter’s Run is a solid, well-constructed and wholly entertaining story.

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: Hunter’s Run by George R.R. Martin, Gardener Dozois, & Daniel Abraham”

  1. Nice review. I always worry about these ‘novellas expanded to novels’ or ‘short stories expanded to novels’ because I expect the worst.

    I do have one question though, what does ‘sf-nal’ mean? In other words, what is it short for and what do you mean by it? Is it short for ‘science fictional’? If so, I’ve never heard that term so I’m not quite sure what subtle meaning you are conveying?

  2. Yep, it’s short for “science fictional”. All the pros use it. :)

    A Google search oddly reveals us as the top hit for “sf-nal“,. There are others (and also for “sfnal” without the hyphen), of course. I say “odd” because I’ve seen this elsewhere plenty of time, including Locus magazine.

  3. Interesting – coining your own phrase (or abbreviation) is very cool. I’d claim it as a John original!

    In any case, does the phrase ‘thought-provoking science fictional idea’ mean something different than ‘thought-provoking idea’? Is it more or less thought-provoking? I am asking very seriously (no sarcasm here.) I could on the one hand see the qualifier as indicating that the idea isn’t quite as good as just an idea. Or perhaps it is better? Are sf-nal ideas better than non-sf-nal ideas? (heh, now ‘non-sf-nal’ is mine!)

    I could also see sf-nal meaning that you’re giving it a description, like an adjective to state that the idea is one of fiction that involves science. Or perhaps subtley both? I think new language is very interesting – especially new language.

  4. GRRM was selling these novella’s at his signings, right after “A Feast for Crows” came out. I would have definitely bought one, except he was asking $40 for them. :/

  5. I’ve wondered if the title is a riff on the movie ‘Midnight Run’, and instead of DeNiro and Grodin, you’ve got a guy and an alien.

    I pretty much agree with your rating and general thrust of the review. I had the luxury of not having read the novella previously, so the story was fresh. It was a good book, and I enjoyed thinking about the questions raised by it. I also appreciate it when authors can make me care about a real jerk of a character.

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