Hunter’s Run by Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin and Daniel Abraham
The story of the publication of Hunter’s Run is epic in itself; begun thirty years ago by Gardner Dozois, continued by George R.R. Martin after Dozois stalled, and finished off by Daniel Abraham almost thirty years later, this has been a book a long time in the making. Ok, yes, I really only bought this book because it had George R.R. Martin’s name on it. He’s my favourite author, and I’ve probably read him more completely than any other, but despite this my hopes weren’t high. Three authors seemed like a ‘too many cooks’ situation, and the fact that progress had stalled so many times suggested that maybe this wasn’t a story worth saving. I was very wrong. Although it’s not revolutionary, Hunter’s Run is an absolutely cracking read, which plays with familiar tropes in new and interesting ways.
Hunter’s Run opens in a bar in Diegotown, the largest city on the planet of Sao Paolo, colonised primarily by Mexicans, under the guidance of the seemingly benevolent curator race known as the Enye. Diegotown is a rough place, and despite the futuristic setting the quality of life is no higher than it is now. Hunter’s Run presents a dismal view of extra-terrestrial colonisation, but one which seems depressingly plausible, and Sao Paolo itself is a desolate and dangerous place.
The protagonist is Ramon Espejo, a pugilistic thug whose first action in the novel is the stabbing to death of a European diplomat in a bar fight. Ramon decides to lay low for a while and head out into the Sao Paolo wilderness, where he works as a prospector. Whilst out scouting for minerals, Ramon makes a discovery which utterly changes his life, and potentially the lives of everyone on the planet.
I’ve said very little about the plot, because it’s worth it to discover for yourself the myriad tricks and depths that this novel has. My low expectations were confounded very quickly, as it became clear what Hunter’s Run was actually about. Although originally conceived as a novella, Hunter’s Run doesn’t feel padded the way that many novels extended from novellas can. This is a lean, tight book which maintains high tension and enjoyment throughout.
The editing, largely done by Dozois and Abaraham, is excellent, with the transference between the three authors largely seamless. If you didn’t know the history, you wouldn’t guess the ‘three author thirty year’ ordeal that this novel went through to get here. The best collaborations are this way, reading seamlessly and consistently throughout. This is probably my favourite collaborative novel since Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens.
Ramon is a really excellent character, coming from a demographic largely underrepresented in science fiction. Although he’s something of a monster, as the novel goes on we find more depths to him, and grow to sympathise with his brutal world view. We don’t like him by the end, he doesn’t lose the edge which makes him interesting, but he does genuinely develop and change over the course of the novel is interesting ways. Hunter’s Run is a novel that really focuses on one character, and the strains Ramon is subjected to present some really fascinating psychological moments.
Hunter’s Run doesn’t feel like Martin’s work, and I suspect that it doesn’t feel like Abraham’s or Dozois’ either. The three of them have created a really great novel here, which is highly entertaining as an adventure story as well as containing some wonderful philosophical and psychological depth.