The Hunt, Book 2
Author: Andrew Fukuda
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: YA Books Central
Description from Goodreads:
For Gene and the remaining humans—or hepers—death is just a heartbeat away. On the run and hunted by society, they must find a way to survive in The Vast... and avoid the hungry predators tracking them in the dark. But they’re not the only things following Gene. He’s haunted by the girl he left behind and his burgeoning feelings for Sissy, the human girl at his side.
When they discover a refuge of exiled humans living high in the mountains, Gene and his friends think they’re finally safe. Led by a group of intensely secretive elders, the civilisation begins to raise more questions than answers. A strict code of behaviour is the rule, harsh punishments are meted out, young men are nowhere to be found—and Gene begins to wonder if the world they’ve entered is just as evil as the one they left behind. As life at the refuge grows more perilous, he and Sissy only grow closer. In an increasingly violent world, all they have is each other... if they can only stay alive.
Prior Books in Series:
1: The Hunt (Review|Goodreads)
First Sentence: "We thought we were finally free of them but we were wrong."
I always hope that, where I've enjoyed the first book in a series, the rest will prove to be at least as good. Andrew Fukuda's debut novel, The Hunt, while not a favorite was an enjoyable action read, a nice change of pace from my more contemplative reads. In reading The Prey, I really hoped to find more of the same, but instead it alternated between wtfery and completely predictable plot twists.
Since I like to give credit where credit is due, there are two things that I did like about The Prey. First, Fukuda writes well, doing a much better job with his syntax and diction than is typical in more action-based stories. Second, he does give the world an origin story in this installment. Where The Hunt suffered from a lack of world building, Fukuda attempts to explain how the creatures came to rule the earth. While I'm not exactly sold on the reasoning and it could have been better done than in a villain's infodumping speech, I appreciate that Fukuda did put thought into this, and I'd like to see more dystopian/post-apocalytpic novels that tackle this aspect.
As I mentioned previously, the most solid aspect of The Hunt, what kept me flipping pages despite the nonsensical world building, was the non-stop action. The Prey starts off slowly and continues to chug along at that slow pace most of the novel. The hepers (aka humans) have escaped down the river on a boat, searching for the promised land, The Land of Milk and Honey. (Insert eyeroll here.) There's a brief interlude of excitement with an attack by the creatures, duskers as they're called in this book, but otherwise the first half is to set up some new romantic tension, which I will get back to later.
Mostly, this slow portion gave me time to really focus on the little details, like the character names. These poor characters have some of the very worst names I have ever encountered. To be fair, there is a reason behind the names, though some of it is unfortunate and Epap (the most nonsensical name) never is explained. What really bothers me is that both female love interests, easily the strongest characters in the series, have been saddled with the most absurdly weak sounding names: Ashley June and Sissy. Why couldn't she just be Ashley or June? Why Ashley June, a name which makes her sound like a country western singer or a girl getting ready for her Super Sweet Sixteen? Of course, if she does start some sort of country western show, Sissy and the Hepers can open for her.
After sailing down the river, crashing down a waterfall, and climbing up a cave, they find a village of humans. Le shock! They're not the only ones still alive! (Insert my incredibly-surprised face right here.) They're immediately served up a feast of delicious food by beautiful girls, albeit ones with funny walks. Clearly this is is The Land of Milk and Honey! But, oh no! It turns out that all is not well in Creepytown! (Insert gasp here.)
Let's just talk about this town, shall we? This town consists of nubile young women, many of them pregnant, and middle-aged, obese men who call themselves elders. That's about it. The fact that it takes the characters any amount of time to determine that something's amiss boggles my mind. Anyway, not only is this town evil, because, hey, that's how things roll in dystopian novels, but it's freaking crazypants. For example, these young women all have such tiny, fucked up feet that they walk in a really weird gait. Yup, this town practices footbinding. Why, you might ask? Well, here are some quotes from the townspeople on women's feet:
"'See, that's the thing with girls with big man-sized feet,' Krugman says from behind us, his voice a slithering coo. 'When their feet haven't been beautified, when the foot glands haven't been broken. Left undestroyed, these glands secrete male hormones into a girl. Turn her from a princess into an opinionated ox. One who fails to understand her place in society, who mistakenly things she can walk like a male, talk like a male, have opinions like a male. Say no to a male. "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a girl with big feet."'" (165)
"'They made me a gopher. I'd go down two times a week with medicine, supplies. That's why they didn't bind my feet but let them grow into man feet—so I'd be able to walk the many miles, climb the cabled ladder. I hated it, in the beginning, mostly because of how my feet got so big and ugly. The other girls were merciless with their taunts. Man feet, man feet, man feet,' she grimaces from the memory." (224)In case you're wondering, yes, that did just really happen. What really bothers me about this is that it seems to solely be a device to make the book more dramatic and terrifying. Having the women around as breeders for disgusting old fat men isn't enough? They have to have their feet bound too? REALLY?
It gets better, though. Not only do they get their feet bound and be impregnated by these men, but they also are issued either merits or rewards based on how obedient they are. A merit can be earned by doing good things, like birthing a baby. A demerit is earned any time a woman steps out of line, like by doing something alone. Each time a woman earns one or the other, the skin of her arm is marked: a branded X for a demerit and a smiley face tattoo for good behavior. I really, really wish I were joking. Apparently this society was created by a demented child.
Running through this absurd landscape of offensive horrors is a cast of flat characters. Gene has all the girls wanting him, and all of the guys jealous of him. The good guys are all obviously good, and the bad guys obviously bad. Women, with the exception of Sissy and Ashley June, are weak. Gene is the most important person, intended to be saved from harm, even at the loss of everyone else's life, which turns out to be incredibly laughable and illogical after you learn the final plot twist.
The romance, though thankfully kept to the backburner, is saccharine and unconvincing, perhaps because of the entire lack of development in the characters. Days after leaving Ashley June to a certain horrible fate with the duskers, Gene and Sissy are having special moments of staring, complete with added tension due to Epap's jealousy. Gene and Sissy have not a bit of sexual tension, nor do they have any sort of real bond. They're good at helping each other survive, so hanging together and hooking up is cool (not that they do), but that does not excuse all the syrupy language used for their every interaction.
The two of them pretty much made me want to throw up whenever they looked at one another, especially when he nearly drowns, she gives him mouth to mouth, and he thinks this: "Then velvet lips on mine, dewy and sweet. Soft on soft, the lips alive and encompassing. Then becoming fiercer, the grip ironclad" (249). Ugh, dude, this is not the freaking Sandlot. You have no oxygen in your lungs; you are dying. Now is not the time to rhapsodize about the softness of her lips. Now, I haven't ever experienced mouth to mouth resuscitation, but I'm pretty sure that the only thing I would be thinking about would be BREATHING. If you're feeling horny while your lungs are full of water, you really should sort out your damn priorities.
This book is nothing like The Hunger Games, though the first one had some elements thereof, so please do not get sucked into that marketing. What it comes down to is, if you're curious or think those things won't bother you, then read it. Other people have read The Prey and enjoyed it. All I can say is that I really, really did not, and that I will not be reading any more of this series.
Favorite Quote: "'Don't we all have a death sentence! The very second we're born, aren't we all sentenced to death?'"