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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hunters & Collectors by Matt Suddain (reviewed by Łukasz Przywóski)

Order Hunters & Collectors over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: M. Suddain was born on a farm in New Zealand. When he was eight, he wrote a novella called Between & Beyond, about an explorer who travels between universes. He later earned a bachelorâe(tm)s degree in film and worked as a graphic artist before becoming a successful journalist and satirist.

FORMAT/INFO: Hunters & Collectors is 512 pages long and is standalone. The book was published by Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Vintage Digital in June 2016.  

OVERVIEW: Suddain’s Hunters & Collectors is one of my favorite books ever. It pains me to see it doesn’t get more hype and recognition. It deserves both. 

The book defies easy categorizations but if you like them think about interstellar thriller mixed with horror and grotesque. Add strong prose (deliberately switching from eloquent and lyrical to gutter-talk) and vivid imagination to the mix and prepare for a wild ride across the galaxy’s best cuisines. The main character, a food critic who prefers to call himself a forensic gastronomer, Jonathan Tamberlain leads an adventurous life dedicated to finding the perfect meal.  

Nicknamed Tomahawk,  he is self-absorbed, opinionated and finicky. Restaurateurs and chefs fear him or hate him. And for a reason - when it comes to food, Tamberlain has no mercy, especially for those who kill it twice. He holds tightly to his passion and never let go. It infuses his life with meaning and purpose and becomes the motivator for everything he does. As a result, he rarely pays attention to other people and their feelings. He throws misogynistic and homophobic remarks around and behaves badly but somehow remains likable and relatable. 

Remember when you were young? When you had few cares and infinite potential? When you owned the world and almost nothing in it? Remember when you weren’t just a ghost who changes faces to suit the weather, or a strange device used by others to manufacture their happiness, but a true being with lungs filled with stories, eyes bruised with happiness?

At one point early in the story, he becomes obsessed with tasting a perfect meal at a fabled Hotel Grand Skies, "a secretive and exclusive haven where the rich and famous retreat to bask in perfect seclusion. A Place where the waiters know their fish knife from their butter knife, their carotid from their subclavian artery, and are trained to enforce the house rules with brutal efficiency". 

Helped by his agent David Woodbine, also known as The Beast, and his body-guard Gladys, with whom he shares a difficult history, Tomahawk sets on a quest. The constant back and forth between them made me laugh numerous times and I consider it one of the book’s many highlights. When they reach their destination, an already weird story goes bonkers. 
There are principles higher than mere survival. It’s not enough to live this life; there must be a quality to living. There are minimum standards. If a man can’t get an upgrade when almost every other guest in the entire hotel has been brutally murdered, then something is wrong.
The parts of the story that take place in the hotel will creep you out. Things take a strange and dark twist, but even grotesque atrocities are bathed in a deliciously dark and absurd sense of humor. Things get surreal, and the narrative form is quite unique as we follow the story via notes and letters written by unreliable Tomahawk whose imagination runs wild. Some of his notes tell the story, some share his philosophical ramblings, fears, and deepest thoughts.
God, how I hate the future. It’s a cult. A tyranny of progress. And anyone who speaks against it is shunned. But all tyrannies must efficiently erase the past if they’re to work. I like the past. The past was solid, simple, and real. The rooms were large, the food was good, and we knew who our enemies were. I feel misty for old tyrannies. The ones which beat you, enslaved you, tried to break your spirit, and in doing so gave your life the only enhancement it really needs: a sense of purpose. The tyranny of the future doesn’t take away our choices; it swamps us in them. It doesn’t curb our freedoms; it tube-feeds us with them until we rupture like neglected factory geese.
I’ve never read anything quite like Hunters&Collectors and I bet you haven’t either. It won't appeal to everyone. Readers enjoying linear plots will probably loathe it. Readers looking for a certain level of weirdness and unpredictability will enjoy it. While I'm not partial to comparing books I'll risk saying that fans of Scott Hawkins' Library at Mount Char will find a similar tone in Hunters & Collectors. 

My opinion? I love this book. I absolutely love it. It's hilarious, unnerving, addicting and thought-provoking.


Swiff said...

You recommended me this novel and I am still so thankful, as it is one of my absolute favorites to recommend to people who are looking for something a "little different." I like to think of it as "Ignatius J. Reilly in a horror-tinged future" but your description is much more eloquent.

Łukasz said...

Thanks, Swiff :) Now we have to convince the rest of the world to read it.


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