The Change affects small, fast breeding mammals first. They multiply with the same aggressive speed as the ExoGen plants, but a new, insatiable hunger drives them to violence. War between species breaks out. And then RC-714 reaches humanity, along with every other large creature on the planet. Civilization implodes, as every living thing that consumed the ExoGen crops begins to adapt to a world full of predators, accessing genes dating back to the beginning of life itself.
Peter Crane and his son Jakob survive the Change, living in their family farmhouse and eating non-ExoGen food from a biodome, one of many provided by Ella Masse, who discovered the ramifications of her breakthrough too late. The pair ekes out a living in a world full of monsters, surviving until Ella shows up on their doorstep with her daughter, pursued by desperate predators and men alike.
As the farmhouse falls under attack, Crane learns that the end of humanity, of life on Earth, can still be averted: if Ella Masse and her daughter survive, and if they make it to the other side of the country without being captured...or consumed.
Jeremiah Knight merges the science of Michael Crichton with the horror of Stephen King in this fresh take on the post-apocalypse, creating a true worst-case scenario for GMO crops that will have people reading labels before eating their next pepper, tomato or kernel of corn.
I’ve read my fair share of post-apocalyptic fiction, and one of the trickiest challenges for any of these novels is providing the reader with an explanation of what happened. If the author casually glosses over the event(s), it can come across as unrealistic. On the other hand, if the lead-up to the main event takes too long, the story can get bogged down. To his credit, Mr. Knight found the perfect balance. Just enough information to explain details pertinent to the story, but not enough to slow down its progression.
The other storytelling challenge Mr. Knight absolutely nailed is pacing. Let’s face it, if you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction, you probably prefer a story with plenty of action and a speedy pace. On that front, Hunger delivers all that and more. Almost immediately after the primary group of characters is brought together, the book hits the gas pedal and doesn’t look back. Throughout the main portion of the book, almost every chapter ends in a mini cliffhanger, making it almost impossible to put the book down. Despite the breakneck speed, however, Mr. Knight keeps a steady hand on the wheel as he seamlessly weaves critical plot points into the action. It’s like he’s juggling chainsaws while balancing himself on a floating ball in a pool full of sharks.
I also appreciate how the story is told through multiple points of view, often called “head hopping”. Throughout the book, each of the main characters (and even one of the secondary characters) takes over narration duties, giving the reader his/her unique perspective of events. Sometimes, the switch happens in the middle of a scene, giving the reader a richer understanding of the interpersonal dynamics playing out among the main characters in real time. It’s possible some may find the constant shifts disconcerting, but for me, it provided greater depth and a better understanding of the characters.
The one criticism I have for the entire book is the handling of a specific conflict between the two main characters, Ella and Peter. They’ve known and loved each other since they were teenagers, but despite this deep connection, Ella subjects Peter to a cruel test with the only explanation being that it was her way of making a point and/or teaching a lesson. I understand Ella thought the lesson was important but in my opinion, the method she chose was a glaring inconsistency to how the character was portrayed up until this point in the book and after. It’s not so egregious as to fatally harm the overall story, but it is a noticeable distraction from an otherwise stellar novel.
Not surprisingly, the book concluded with a wild, action-packed finish and a juicy cliffhanger that left me rushing to Mr. Knight’s website in search of a release date for Feast, book two in the Hunger series. Sadly, the only information available as of this writing is “Coming soon in 2016”.
In the meantime, Mr. Knight (and his alter egos Jeremy Robinson and Jeremy Bishop) have a wide range of other books available, including multiple stand alone novels, a Kaiju series, The Cerberus Group series, The Beserker Saga series (coming in 2016/2017), Jack Sigler thrillers, Chesspocalypse novellas, Jack Sigler Continuum novellas, The Antarktos Saga (modern fantasy), Jeremy Bishop novels (Horror), The Refuge Horror series, anthologies and a humor series. He also writes and illustrates comics and games.
Check out the Knockin Books author interview with Jeremy Robinson (Jeremiah Knight's alter ego) as well as our review of the Hunger book cover design.
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