The Hunger (Release Date: March 6th, 2018)
Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.
Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.
While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased…and very hungry?”
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When I heard about the concept of this book, I was like giddy up! This is going to be awesome! So many elements of this novel are spot on. Several times I thought to myself, Katsu did her homework. The time period and events are well-executed. Her treatment of the plight of early settlers and issues like gender roles is honest, and sometimes brutal. Part of what hooked me into this read was the believability, which was amped up by the beautiful sentences. Holy cow, this author can wield the magic of the word. If this is something you can appreciate, you need to read this book.
Katsu juggles a lot of characters, walking the line of whether or not we are getting too much of a good thing. The point of view shifts really keep us on our toes, and the author proves she can manage it all. Yet, I was sometimes left wanting more. I can’t say I wanted more depth, since there is plenty of depth. We often get the dirty little secrets from the characters’ pasts, which are delicious and make them more human. I just feel that I’d have preferred staying consistently close to fewer characters.
Technically, this novel is billed as a zombie book. However, I’m so glad this did not deter me from reading it. Katsu makes these abominations her own, not sticking to the run of the mill stuff. You won’t get wandering corpses looking for brains, which I was thrilled about. Her undead are more of a blur between human and non-human, creating a much more realistic and terrifying premise. We watch as the characters struggle with their fears of not only the frontier (which if you’ve died over and over again playing Oregon Trail, or read up on your history, you totally get), but with the horrors of human nature, which includes what they are willing to do to survive. And this is all with a zombie threat looming in the background.
Is there enough ‘horror’ in this book? For me, the suspense and unease was a slow burn, but the burn was pretty scorching. Things get ugly, but if you’re looking for a bloodbath or gore fest, you have come to the wrong place. Katsu does slice and dice a bit, but not to excess. The other aspects of the novel carry it through, so she doesn’t push this particular envelope too much. So don’t get your hopes up too high.
What about the ending? Is it satisfying? The pieces do tie up. So, you will get the answers you seek. However, I think I was expecting more of a ‘bam, this is the end’ sensation. Like, metaphorically speaking, I was anticipating a tragic car crash, but we put on the breaks a little before impact. But, that’s a bit of a nitpick.
If you are into historical fiction, psychological horror, or slow burn dark novels, this is the perfect book for you, especially if you want to be wowed by stunning prose.
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