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