Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hunter's Run by George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Abraham

Science Fiction, along with guitar music, has been a constant in my life. My earliest appreciation of the SF genre came from the amazing (for an eight year old boy) cover art on so many of it's volumes. I can recall spinning the paperback spindle at Patrick Henry Village Library, marveling at the space ships and aliens depicted on those books' covers. Reading and comprehending such books was a far more difficult matter, at least for a few more years. Until middle school I stuck with fantasy (Conan the Barbarian, Chronicles of Narnia, etc.) It was in eighth grade that SF really began to exert an influence. Sadly, this influence was kicked off somewhat askew by the blindingly dull Battlefield Earth (L. Run Hubbard will take your time along with your money), oddly assigned by the hippie 8th Grade English instructor at Heidelberg Middle School. Asimov and Heinlein came after that. Then, thank God, came Cyberpunk. Just as the better Punk bands forced a lot of bloat and pretension out of the Rock process, so too did Cyberpunk for SF. It was just as refreshing for me to find William Gibson et al as it was to really hear Black Flag or the Ramones.
It's often seemed to me that greatest contributions that Cyberpunk have made to the genre have come in the form of humanness. The best of it's writers make people the narrative focus, as opposed to Technology or Hegelian historical narratives. In so many of these novels, even when the setting is in Space, the concerns remain human and earthy. I'm not sure if any of the authors of Hunter's Run are considered to be Cyberpunk authors, but the book's style and narrative can place it within that genre of SF.
Very human and very earthy is Ramon Espejo, the protagonist of Hunter's Run. The novel follows his path as gets into real bad trouble, tries to escape this trouble, and then becomes ensnared as a pawn in a struggle that is much bigger than him. Along the way he must confront the more odious aspects of his character, and the authors do a great job of setting this aspect of the story up and then fleshing it out. In a classic escape through the wilderness type of setting, Ramon is confronted with issues of a more universal scale, and must overcome his own issues in order to simply survive. The changes in his character are never writ large by the authors, but instead are subtle and unfold over the course of the novel. This makes for a character that most any reader can relate to and empathize with. Ultimately, there is a kind of redemption for him, but it's not naive or corny.
The supporting characters of the story are well placed and well edited by the authors. They never out shine the character study of Ramon Espejo and never lead down narrative blind alleys. They provide contrast and dialogue, but never so much as to give the feeling of being superfluous. So too the settings. The story is set on a far flung from Earth planet, but the details are never filled-in so much that there is no room left for the imagination of the reader. Fantastical elements are touched upon, but only ever enough to make the planet seem fascinating and different from Earth.
It must have been difficult for three people to work on a novel, and the authors did a hell of a job keeping their styles seamless for the sake of the story. Recall William Gibson and Bruce Sterlings' clunky collaboration The Difference Engine and contrast it with the excellent flow throughout the whole of Hunters Run. It never seems like two different authors' work, let alone three. Really impressive, that.
Hunter's Run is a fun read, well edited and quick paced. It can be read over longer periods or taken in by small chunks. There is humor, horror, love, longing, fulfillment, angst, and much more in the story. It's focus on the complicated striving of a relatively simple character places it within the Cyberpunk camp. As such, I really dig it. You may, too.

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