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HUNTED ***

Written by GX Todd. RRP £18.99 496pp

Out 31st May from Headline

 

Defender, the first entry in The Voices series by GX Todd earned a considerable amount of praise and immediate comparisons to The Stand. While it does not come close to the classic status of Stephen King’s magnum opus, it was a neat and vicious entry in the dystopian future genre. Set many years after a psychic plague that causes people to hear voices that drive them to do unspeakable things, it set itself up with many intriguing plot lines and questions about the world it took place in.

 

For Hunted, Todd takes some risks with characters style and structure that open up the narrative and at the same time adds more questions to the ongoing saga.

 

The first entry in the series concentrated on the trio of Pilgrim, Lacey and Alex, this sequel introduces a whole new set of protagonists led by Albus. Albus is a disfigured mute who leads a ragtag group of survivors out on missions to rescue survivors from the roving bands of infected. He has visions and hears the voice of his sister Ruby and desperately wants to find her. Returning readers will remember Ruby was killed off in the first book after setting Lacey and company on their quest. Also looking for Red, for his own nefarious motives Posy is a much-changed figure from the naïve simpleton who was in thrall to the villains previously.

 

Posy is very reminiscent of Stephen King’s antagonists, especially Randal Flagg. Quietly threatening, wildly sadistic and seductive enough to gather a collection of like-minded followers who are ready to indulge his every violent whim. The book is at its most interesting when Posy takes centre stage. In comparison, Albus and his gang are quite bland and uninteresting. This leaves the reader uninvested in their quest and hoping that senseless acts of violence will befall one or two of them. A trope of the authors that is now becoming more than familiar only two books into this particular storyline. Todd also suffers from the unfortunate habit that King often indulges in, that of forced humour in the dialogue which always fails to amuse and goes on far too long far too often.

 

Stylistically there are choices made here that also fall flat. At one point Todd tries her hand at non-chronological time lines for one chapter. Unfortunately, this device only confuses the reader, and it serves no particular purpose or reason when the sequence comes to its conclusion. However, one can at least admire that Todd was willing to try something different here. Her ambition right now may not match her storytelling skills but as this is only her second novel she may just be able to reconcile the two in future works.

 

The concept of the inner voices is still underexplored by the books end and the number of questions now raised is quickly reaching the levels of the television show Lost when it was at its most impenetrable. Sadly, the results are not as successful as Defender, making Hunted a bit of a frustrating read. However, Todd manages to keep the plot moving and manages to craft some cliffhangers that for all this particular entries flaws leave the reader keen to know what happens in part three.

 

Iain MacLeod

 

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