4.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
Hunter’s Run is an anomaly in my experience, a book that was worked on for several decades by several authors that actually came out well. I’m not a particular fan of any of the authors involved in the project, and yet together they managed to make something that I really liked. The story is a straight up hard sci-fi adventure, but there are a lot of more subtle psychological elements thrown in that give the book real emotional hooks to sink into the readers. The setting is standard profligate expansionist, capitalist, ecologically disastrous, humanity exploiting a beautiful, pristine, wild, alien world, but other than this tired device, everything is quite original and interesting. The protagonist shows real character growth throughout the book, and while initially the bizarre alien scenery is more interesting than his personal journey, eventually the psychological element proves to be the real strength of the book. I would definately recommend this book to any hard sci-fi fans and I hope you will pick up a copy yourself.
Ramon Espejo is a good for nothing, self centered degenerate who is quick to anger and even quicker to violence. When his life degenerates into a horrible mess of a his own making, he flees to the alien wilderness. When his ship is destroyed, he must go on a deeply personal journey to get back to the safety of civilization, but not before he confronts and overcomes his own personal demons.
I’m not really sure what draws authors to the setting of an alien planet being ecologically ruined by humans for resources. I suppose it is partially a comment on current ecological issues, but I genuinely find it hard to believe that anyone who reads sci-fi would posit it as an especially interesting setting. This version isn’t badly done or anything; in fact, the sheer alienness of the environment is an initial strength of the book, but I would still have prefered something a bit more original than what basically boils down to gold rush era wild West days in the United States set in space.
Other than a rather forgettable setting, everything is done very well in Hunter’s Run. The protagonist is quite complex while remaining completely believable, the alien world seems organic and well functioning without any overly convenient bits for the authors to rely on, and the plot pacing is excellent, keeping you equally interested throughout the book whether the protagonist is in mortal peril or battling psychological issues. The protagonist in particular really stands out as an achievement in this sort of many-authored book. He also manages to straddle the very fine line where his behavior is despicable enough that he has lots of room for personal growth but not so egregious that you get disgusted with him and no longer have an interest in the book overall like oh, I don’t know, someone who does unwholesome things to a monkey.
Usually, in a situation like this with multiple authors, you end up with inconsistent characters whose behavior shifts depending on what author most influenced that particular piece of the book and whose motivations change from one scene to the next as different authors need him to feel different things depending on their part of the story. This book has none of that. Despite the fact that multiple people had an influence here, I really can’t point to any point as inconsistent with the rest of the book. If it didn’t have multiple authors credited on the title, I would have never suspected that there was more than one author at work here.
Comparisons to Other Authors:
I’ve probably made this comparison to several other books, but this really reminded me of Alastair Reynolds’s excellent followup to Revelation Space, Chasm City. Both have the melding of a sharp hard sci-fi with tense psychodrama that really tickles my fancy.