The Hunt offers a world in which human beings – or hepers – have been eaten almost to the point of extinction. Those who consume them seem physically human but have none of the finer feelings and emotions, understanding only the need to feed on heper flesh and blood.Fakuda often fails to draw the fine narrative line between ghoul and caricature and, as a result, his characters tend to be the latter-dying in the same luridly painted way as they exist. Flesh melts and drips, yellow pus oozes and one hapless man’s head ‘not so much explodes as peels off his neck’. There is a good deal of repetitive description of reactions to the proximity of hepers in which long strings of saliva and colossal quantities of drool are uncomfortably prominent.
Yet there are compensations for this sort of faintly ridiculous exaggeration – the relationship between the covert hepers, Gene and Ashley June is handled with some restraint and the focus on the day-to-day difficulties of their concealment is convincingly detailed. Perhaps the most effective section of the book is that where Gene meets the remaining hepers, kept inside a dome in the desert and bred purely for the eponymous Hunt, which occurs every 10 years. It is Gene and Ashley June’s unwitting selection for the Hunt which gives some glimpse of moral and ethical dilemmas-prejudice, loyalty and the perils which beset society’s outsiders-and some potency to the narrative.
However, the ending of the book relies heavily on The English Patient and the final sentence pitches the narrative into the melodrama which threatens to undermine its veracity throughout.