A review by hutchisonterrace
Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin


without even acknowledging the politics of the book, i didn't like it. from a quality standpoint, i'm actually really surprised it made it past the editors.

prose-wise, sentences meandered for far too long - to the point where you frequently lost track of what was happening because the author spent so long describing scenery - and jump cuts were sudden and constant. it would take several sentences for you to figure out whose perspective you were reading from, and toward the end it became nearly impossible to figure out what was actually going on.

there were times where flashbacks were interspersed, and character's thoughts were written, but i couldn't understand what was present time (and outside of the character's head) unless i was actively looking at the page and saw the italics for myself. this made reading the book out loud a challenge to keep up with, and i imagine as an audiobook it'd be difficult to follow.

content-wise, if you remove the incendiary politics of the book, it offers nothing new to the post-apocalyptic genre. the virus' mechanism is a serious head-scratcher for anyone with a basic understanding of how endocrinology, viruses and basic human biology works. men turn into cannibalistic rape-beasts due to testosterone levels, and so do women with PCOS, yet the protagonists are trans women who have not received orchiectomies, so aside from using OTC methods to suppress their T, they should be at far likelier risk of turning than even the most hormonally whacked out woman. again, the protags STILL HAVE THEIR BALLS, yet somehow chewing licorice root is enough to suppress their testosterone levels to protect them. meanwhile, women with PCOS are somehow naturally filled with more testosterone than them, and are referenced multiple times in the book as turning into beasts. the logic of it makes no sense. also, there's a lot of talk about eating testicles to help suppress testosterone, but it feels more like a peek into the author's flesh-eating kink than anything based on science.

the world-building is also dizzying. they have working electricity, they have access to antibiotics and hormones, one compound is advanced enough for a fertility specialist to try and select for XX fetuses exclusively in a bid to save the human race... and yet buildings are dilapidated and finding enough food to survive on is an issue. overall, it veers into a strange blend of scifi and post-apoc that i found hard to suspend my disbelief for.

one of the main dangers is that the men only produce XY sperm, and to be impregnated by one of them means you will give birth in 3 months (the gestation time) and your male fetus will literally chew its way out of you. i'm not seeing how the tech is advanced enough to grant sex-selective fertility treatment, and yet they wouldn't have the tech for implanting copper IUDs in every woman of childbearing age? why wouldn't female scavengers and soldiers be outfitted with chastity belts with teeth, or emergency contraceptives in every first aid kit? you're telling me abortions wouldn't practically be on tap?

i also have a hard time believing that men, at the start of the plague, wouldn't be lining up to self-castrate to protect themselves. (castration is established in the book as a surefire way to protect against the virus). you're telling me NO man, with any understanding of how the virus operates, would chop off his nuts to protect himself against becoming a mindless rape zombie? really?

also, a hormonally-based virus is just hard for me to believe. it really is. nearly 3 years into the COVID-19 pandemic and we should all have enough understanding of viral mechanisms to see how this book is better off going the magic/curse route than the scientific route of making it a plague. but at this point i'm beating a dead horse, so i'll move on, because there's no need to belabor my point.

the characters were all really soulless and reprehensible. if the author intended for everyone to be scathing, self-serving and sadistic, hole in one right there. beth earns most loathsome just by sheer virtue of how many of her scenes involve imagining the destruction, humiliation and suffering of women around her, but ramona was also despicable, a traitor through and through that acted like a cruel, perverted caricature of a male soldier. fran and robbie were spineless whelps and their romance felt forced and dull, and all of indi's scenes involved waxing poetic about how gigantically fat she was, which i found gross and dehumanizing as fuck.

sophie was actually my favorite character, a compelling antagonist, so dead set on repopulating the earth that she'll perform heinous acts of violence just to achieve her goals. the compound of hers didn't make much sense, but her scenes with manbeast mackenzie were twisted and genuinely unnerving, and it was a bummer that her storyline was the b-plot of the novel.

teach was also a fascinating antagonist, but i have to say, total caricature aside from some very evil lines that i thought were cool and villainous. the author has clearly done some reading on radical feminist literature, but only enough that you can catch references here and there that are empty and meaningless when you've actually done legitimate research on the movement. also, the reference to JK rowling having some kind of bunker where a woman with PCOS turned feral and tore her to shreds was laugh-out-loud stupid.

my greatest criticism of the book is how sinister it was. not in a way i believe the author considered intentional. other reviewers have mentioned that the author endorses depictions of graphic rape in media, and having read this book, i believe this endorsement is darker than you might think. gore is written with such grim, pornographic detail that it was appalling, and the violence against women (the graphic scene of a woman being lynched and her uterus being carved out of her, as an example) was so over the top that i'm shocked anyone actually enjoyed the book. the number of readers i've come across on other sites such as twitter who have mentioned how much they found the book relatable in terms of beth and fran's internal monologues towards women... let's just say i think serial killers are gonna make a comeback in the next decade.

which like, once you get past the shock value, the book has nothing to really offer. like a serbian film, hostel and the human centipede, manhunt joins other pieces of shock shlock media where the only draw future audiences will have towards it is just by gawking at the depravity captured. characters aren't strong enough for audiences to truly find compelling, the storyline isn't unique enough to chew over time and time again, and the prose is tiring and overdone. manhunt has nothing to offer the average reader aside from a glimpse into a misanthropic mind, but i'm sure the author would consider that a compliment instead of an indictment.

there's a lot to write about this book, none of it praise, none of it pleasant. i read this book because it has was warmly received, but i can't help but wonder how many people actually thought it was good. are any of you going to be rereading this even three years from now?

i would love to see how audiences perceive this book years from now, because i imagine it has only enjoyed its time in the sun purely because of the current political landscape. should the tides turn, i don't think it will receive such critical acclaim in the future.

by the way, the fact that brutal depictions of rape, torture and murder are illustrated, but none of the characters get misgendered even in the heads of the antagonist TERF - laughable. it's almost as if some lines are TOO depraved to cross, huh?