- File Size: 3846 KB
- Print Length: 384 pages
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (March 6, 2018)
- Publication Date: March 6, 2018
- Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B071X2K32P
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,102 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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“Supernatural suspense at its finest...It is strangely ethereal, yet gritty...But the best thing about The Hunger is that it will scare the pants off you....Enjoy the journey, one so entertaining that you almost don't mind feeling queasy at dinner.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Katsu shows an acute understanding of human nature.…[She] is at her best when she forces her readers to stare at the almost unimaginable meeting of ordinary people and extraordinary desperation, using her sharp, haunting language.”—USA Today
“A reimagining of the ill-fated Donner Party but with an eerie supernatural twist.”—New York Post
“Combines meticulous historical research and a keen understanding of human nature with a monstrous original metaphor to reimagine the ill-fated Donner-Reed party as a haunted endeavor, doomed from its first mile.”—Salon
“The Hunger is being described as ‘the Donner Party with a supernatural twist,’ and it sure delivers on the spooky premise.”—Bustle
“[The Hunger] is as rich in history as it is disturbing.”—Vulture
“Much like Dan Simmons's The Terror, Alma Katsu's accomplished, engrossing novel weaves a cocoon of supernatural horror around historical tragedy....The atmosphere of doom becomes as thick as the snow that eventually halts the pioneers' progress. It's a beautifully intense read.”—The Financial Times (UK)
“The Hunger by Alma Katsu takes the tragic tale of the Donner Party and infuses it with hints of witchcraft, vampirism, lycanthropy, cannibalism and zombiism in a tale that is fated to become the latest Donner Party-inspired horror movie.”—True West Magazine
“Katsu injects the supernatural into this brilliant retelling of the ill-fated Donner Party....Fans of Dan Simmons’s The Terror will find familiar and welcome chills.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“For fans of historical fiction and the supernatural, Katsu’s goosebumpy and spooky plot makes for an original and surprising read.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“A suspenseful and imaginative take on a famous tragedy.”—Booklist
“An inventive reimagining...Westward migration, murder, sensation: the story of the Donner Party has all this....Katsu creates a riveting drama of power struggles and shifting alliances....The tensions [she] creates are thrilling.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Grips readers from the opening paragraphs and doesn’t let go. Full of richly drawn and fascinatingly flawed characters, this is a story that is respectful of the history it relates, but doesn’t shy away from the sins, mistakes and bigotry of the past, to impressive effect.”—RT Book Reviews
“The isolation is anxiety-inducing and the tension is perfect....Well-written and gripping with a strong conclusion, The Hunger is an inventive take on an already morbidly fascinating historical event. Recommended.”—Historical Novel Society
“Escalating terror and excitement, leading to an ending that's beyond unsettling... Katsu does a remarkable job of transforming a true story into a hard-to-put-down work of fiction.... Unique, literary and entertaining.”—The Oklahoman
“Take the already gruesome Donner Party story, add a wagonload of frightening supernatural elements, and you have the ingredients that animate this chilling novel….A compulsively addictive retooling of historical fact.”—Brandeis Magazine
“An unsettling and slow-burning tale that combines history and the supernatural that sure to please anyone with interest in either.”—SF Reader
“It's a testament to Katsu's skill as a writer that she creates characters so compelling that we can't help hoping they will escape the fate we knew was hurtling toward them the moment we opened the book. She ends the novel with an image of sacrifice and an image of reconciliation, each of them powerful and affecting. They give the book a melancholy resonance. It's a fine novel.”—Locus Magazine
“Alma Katsu has taken one of the darkest and most chilling episodes in our history, and made the story even darker, even more terrifying. I swear I'm still shuddering. A fantastic read!”—R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series
“Like The Revenant but with an insistent supernatural whisper. The setting and the story are utterly chilling. And the telling of it is so well done.”—Sarah Pinborough, author of Behind Her Eyes
“The Hunger is a terrific historical novel with a thrilling, bloody twist. Alma Katsu’s brilliant reimagining of the Donner party’s fate is rich with character, laden with imminent doom, and propelled by chilling mystery. A novel that book clubs and dark fiction fans should devour with equal relish.”—Christopher Golden, author of Ararat and Snowblind
“If you think the story of the Donner Party can’t get more horrific, think again. In this gripping, atmospheric reimagining of that dark tale, Katsu has created a deeply unsettling and truly terrifying masterpiece.”—Jennifer McMahon, author of Burntown and The Winter People
“An uneasy, nauseous, slow-burning tale that marries historical fiction with a hint of the supernatural. Great detailing; colorful characterization; some supremely ominous stuff, but always reined in at the final moment to rack up the tension even more. Loved it!”—Joanne Harris, author of Different Class and Chocolat
“The Hunger is a bold and brilliant novel, heavy with foreboding and dread, and with a rich vein of humanity at its core. I challenge you to read it without experiencing your own hunger pangs.”—Tim Lebbon, author of Relics and The Silence
“In an audacious twist, Alma Katsu has made something new and suspenseful from the legendary story of the Donner Party. The Hunger is filled with terror, pity, and grue.”—Keith Donohue, author of The Boy Who Drew Monsters and The Stolen Child
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The author of this book injects supernatural aspects into the historical record to weave a tale which at times comes across as almost bi-polar. At times, the book reads like a Harlequin romance “bodice ripper”, at other it reads like a poor man’s Stephen King novel. At others, it reaches for historical fiction. The result is a mess. Though not a very long book, it read much longer due to the fact that many scenes seemed to repeat themselves over and over again.
The book was way too short for a novel of this type. The Terror was around 1000 pages. It gave the story time to unfold and for the horror aspect to build up. This story also needed time. Hardly anything was shown by the writer's words. Instead, we were told what had happened. Don't tell me after the fact, write about it so I can read it and get pulled into the story as if I was a member of the Donner Party.
There were way too many flashbacks in the form of letters. It made the timeline a little confusing, but it also caused some of the issues with telling and not showing the reader what was happening or what the characters' motivations were.
In a book of this size (370-ish pages), there were way too many points of view. If the book were the size it needed to be (600+ at a minimum), the number would have been fine, but with all the information so condensed and rushed through, I routinely had problems keeping up with all the POVs. There were also too many characters to keep up with. I understand the number of characters was necessary because this was based on a true story with all the characters having really existed in the Donner Party, but this is just one more reason why the book should have been longer. I finished the book knowing next to nothing about most of the characters. A Dramatis Personae at the beginning of the book probably would have been helpful, but better character development to make the characters more memorable would have been even more helpful.
Another gripe I had was that all of the characters had the same voice, which was also the same voice as the narration. The rich and sophisticated spoke the same way as the little children and the uneducated adults.
I probably should have rated this 1 star, but the concept was interesting, and there are worse books out there. I would not recommend this book to anyone, however, especially if you are looking for horror fiction that really draws you in. This book was more in line with halfway listening in on an adult telling a completely unbelievable campfire story to a bunch of kids.
I'm a huge fan of historical fiction with a paranormal twist. Books like Dan Simmons' The Terror and The Abominable are some of my favorites in the genre, and both have a paranormal threat on top of an already dire situation. When I heard that Katsu was coming out with a book about The Donner Party facing a paranormal entity, I practically squealed in delight. This was a book that I instantly NEEDED.
The Hunger is definitely a slow burn. It takes its time letting the reader understand the hardships and perils of moving by wagon train across the country in 1846. Not only that, but Katsu spends ample time with flashbacks that give each character more of a backstory. It seems like most of the pioneers have a secret, and so for many of them risking their lives on the trail is more appealing than living back east with a past that haunts them. California promises a fresh start, so all of the families in the The Donner wagon train are initially optimistic and in good spirits.
At some point along the trail Donner becomes the leader of the group, and thus his name is forever associated with one of the most chilling stories in American history. As the group continues west, rations start to disappear and tensions mount. Too many of the men feel that they are better suited to lead the party, especially after a boy goes missing while they are camped, and they later find his mutilated body. The group wants to blame the incident on animals or even Indians in the area, but all of them know that the boy's body is mutilated far beyond what any man or animal is capable of, and each person who saw the body starts to entertain thoughts of something more sinister possibly following the wagon train.
I'm not going to spoil anything further, but things continue to get worse for the party, as groups begin to form, rations continue to dwindle, and Donner outright refuses to listen to warnings from pioneers further up the trail who tell him to follow a different route, that they will surely not make it to California if they continue on the path they have chosen. Most people know the real story of the Donner Party, and Katsu uses those details expertly while weaving in a sinister threat that is eventually revealed toward the end of the novel.
I was thoroughly invested in this story and in the characters. The entire time you know the whole party is doomed, and yet you still root for them. You still hope that they will take a different route, or even go back and winter at one of the forts they passed on their journey west. But none of that happened in real life, and so the Donner Party trudges on, while something beyond their wagons watches them. Something that is hungry. Something that will never give up.
This would have been a 5 star read for me if only the end had been different. After such a slow burn, after teasing something so sinister and evil for almost the entire book, I was waiting for an absolute gut punch ending. Sadly, the very end of the book is a bit of a disappointment.
The Hunger is a well written historical fiction/horror novel that had me invested from the very beginning. Even though you know the ultimate outcome from the very first chapter, this is still a book that has you sitting on the edge of your seat.
Top international reviews
Based on a true story, the disappearance of a large wagon train heading west towards California in the mid-1840s, Alma Katsu has made a superb job of recreating the hard and dangerous life of the wagon train. For much of the perilous journey there is a vague suspicion of something nasty tracking the ninety or so travellers, including many children, wives and old folks. Many of the group were desperate men, heading west with a lack of provisions, ill-prepared and hoping to survive the perilous 2000 mile journey to enjoy what later became known as the ‘American Dream’. But instead we’re heading into nightmare territory.
It’s hard to know what to compare this superb beast of a novel to, however, if Dan Simmons decided to tackle the American frontier period he may well come up with something like “The Hunger” and that’s high praise indeed. The novel is full of colourful period detail, exquisitely researched, and although it moves along at a slow pace it is never dull and I read it very quickly. However, if you do prefer a slash, bang, wallop kind of horror then this is probably not the book for you. It inhabits the literary end of the genre and is a fine example of how to build tension, slow dread and fear as the travellers are picked off one by one after the first young boy is disappears early in their journey, his eaten corpse found strangely ahead of the wagon train a few days later. Indians or wolves are suspected, but soon the fear and suspicion spreads.
According to the informative author end-notes the true events of the disappearance of the ‘Donner Party’, or at least the facts that do exist, was common knowledge until the last couple of generations and have now disappeared from common American historical knowledge. As George Donner had the most wagons and financial clout he declared himself leader of the convoy, but with winter fast approaching the wagon train falls behind schedule and they are left with a critical choice to make. Either go the familiar safer wagon route, or follow a supposed short-cut which is unexplored, but rumoured to shave 300 miles from the journey. They foolishly take the short cut.
Although the whole book is a journey, with something nasty lurking in the background, the book is as much about the people as anything else. It is also easy enough to argue the plot would have been strong enough without any supernatural elements at all. Seen from multiple points of view there are some wonderfully drawn characters and the novel uses both flashbacks and letters to explore many key back stories. For many of them, risking a 2000-mile journey, means they are running away from something. Amongst these good Christian men and women, we have every kind of secret from infidelity, homosexual lust, murder, to incest, all of which slowly unravel as the wagon train begins to flounder. Laced into the plot are many clever cultural observations from the period, for example, why were unmarried men treated with suspicion? As one of the leading characters Stanton finds out.
“The Hunger” was a superbly thoughtful novel, which ultimately stretched the limits of human endurance, as there is more than one kind of ‘hunger’ within the pages of the book. Its strength lies in its depiction of the pioneer spirit of the brave ninety souls searching for a dream, not knowing a nightmare was waiting. Turning a factual event into a very readable novel is tricky, adding a convincing supernatural angle is even more difficult, but the author pulls it off admirably. It’s possible readers of ‘straight’ historical fiction may not like the direction the novel heads in the final 25% of its gruelling 400 pages. But, hey, that’s their loss.
The atmosphere in this book is a such a winner, and the naïveté of the families who set out to travel through uncharted territory, from Illinois to California, is quite pitiful; they fancied they were setting out a great adventure, little understanding the size of America, the range of temperatures and terrains, the dangers they might face when trying to transport their families and entire homes through completely wild lands.
Main characters feature: Stanton, a lone traveller with a troubled past; Bryant, a man fascinated with the Native American culture; Tamsen, a dissatisfied trophy wife; Reed, a pompous former shop owner; Elitha, a young woman who hears voices, the sinister Keseberg, whose back story is flesh-crawlingly gruesome... and there are points of view from various others, too. In fact, there are so many characters that I sometimes forgot who was who, but the main ones were well-drawn enough for them to stand out, and I realised after a while that it wasn't absolutely essential to remember everything about a character, just because he or she had a name.
The party have started out too late in the season, and face many problems on the way, as, against advice, they take a route that is supposed to shave many miles off the journey, which becomes increasingly arduous ... and, waiting in the wings, is another danger.
I did enjoy this book, a lot, though I thought it could have done without the supernatural aspect, which didn't really work for me, and seemed superfluous, turning the book into a genre it needn't have been; the darkness of man himself was enough to add all the terror the story required. However, this side of it is not too over-played, and I enjoyed it enough to buy a book suggested in the notes at the back - a fiction of the actual story, which Katsu used in her research.
Conflicting egos and preserving civility are not the only ordeals facing the travellers. An incomprehensible menace spreads like a contagion to torment and divide the group. Their hopes and dreams become dominated by a historical myth as mystery and misery combine.
In addition to an ominous feeling crafted by exemplary, spine-chilling storytelling, I loved the short background chapters featuring each of the main characters. While they establish their presence within the group, being drip-fed perfectly timed profiles of their life prior to joining the trail in this way boosted the suspense even further – I was curious to learn if they were running to something, or from it.
A stunning depiction of endurance, brooding hostility, and fear in every guise. It safe to say I devoured “The Hunger” (excuse the pun) and would wholly recommend it.
Sadly the author has treated them as a list of names. There is no attempt (or there is no successful attempt) to provide these people with characters. As a result the book was, for me, unreadable. When Jane Doe went to talk to Joe Smith I had no idea who these people were, what they had already done, what previous interactions had been described.
I only read to the end to find out what had caused the hunger, the central mystery in the book. The author then fluffed this and didn't really resolve it.
Also there was padding in the form of unnecessary back stories, or they may have been useful if only the people concerned had had characters.
It's not so much an open ended ending, it's an open ended whole. Why are the monsters even there? These people are dying anyway. What's the point of a whole separate story line about some bloke (whose fate we never learn) discovering stuff about them, when they don't really have any part to play on the main storyline?
Just a bit of a waste of time to be honest. Writing workmanlike, not particularly good but doesn't distract.
The story starts small, before tension slowly ramps up. The prologue sets the stakes, and within a few paragraphs of chapter 1, we have been shown the vastness of the land as well as a first whiff of things to come. It is excellent writing and the reader can almost smell the disaster looming, long before things even begin to look bad. There are plenty of incidences, growing more and more disturbing, suggesting that the best course of action for the wagon party is to turn back, but these are dismissed. By the time the party, dogged by urgency at the approaching winter, gets to the point of no return, there are too many personal stakes in place preventing better decisions to be made. It is utterly believable, with each little step towards the end resting on established human faults much more than bad luck. Each member of the party carry not only their belongings but also the weight of the past. All have a reason to be on the wagon train, and these reasons are optimistic and opportunistic only on the surface. Underneath, there is tragedy, fear, scandal and hate. All of this creates a stifling, unnerving atmosphere, and leads to mistakes that will cost the group. As a reader you can see it coming - observe the moments where less strained minds might have made a better call - yet the errors seem unavoidable given the history and shortcomings of the characters. Consequently, as the story unfolds, the eventual fate of the wagon train seems almost predetermined.
A nod should also be given to Katsu's eye for historical detail: the facts of the original story are there, as are the facts of the time. This is one of the best horror novels I've read in a long time.