David Rix's A Blast of Hunters was published by Snuggly Books in July 2019.
About David Rix:
David Rix is an author, composer, editor, artist and publisher active in the area of Slipstream, Speculative Fiction and Horror - not to mention hints of absurdism, miserablism, naturism and pissed-offism. Contemporary classical music, the seashore, urban underground, railways, rocks and canals. His published books are What the Giants were Saying, the chapbook Brown is the New Black and the novella/story collection Feather, which was shortlisted for the Edge Hill prize. In addition, his works have appeared in various places, the most notable being many of the Strange Tales series of anthologies from Tartarus Press, Monster Book For Girls from Exaggerated Press, Creeping Crawlers from Shadow Publishing, and Marked to Die from Snuggly Books. He also runs and creates the art for Eibonvale Press, which focuses on innovative and unusual new slipstream writing. As an editor, his first anthology Rustblind and Silverbright, a collection of Slipstream stories connected to the railways, was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award in the Best Anthology category.
Click here to visit his official website.
About A Blast of Hunters:
London in the near future. A familiar city where the faces of the passers-by are painted with pain and where thoughts are dark and restless. For one of the city’s lost residents, waiting for oblivion on the railway tracks late one night, nothing should ever have mattered again. Instead, a chance encounter plunges him into the chasms of the city - to a place where prophecies of doom are muttered and where the urban hunters prowl, as the spectres of the Measuring Men walk the streets, rulers in hand.
A story of outsiders and subversion.
REVIEW: A BLAST OF HUNTERS BY DAVID RIX
David Rix's A Blast of Hunters is one of the best literary speculative fiction novels I've read to date. It's a masterpiece of captivating and thought-provoking storytelling with excellent literary prose. Its brilliant and stingingly sharp depiction of near future is so impressive that I found myself utterly captivated by the story and its dark and haunting undertones which border on the line of being disturbing and even a bit offensive.
A Blast of Hunters is the author's first novel. His transition from a short fiction writer to a novel writer is impressive and fully successful. Everything that can be found in his short stories and novellas can also be found here, but now the story is just larger than before. This is a fierce blend of dystopian fiction and slipstream fiction that will appeal to readers who love literary speculative fiction.
I think there's a strong possibility that A Blast of Hunters may not be to everyone's liking, because it's not an easy read, but that's one of the reasons why it should be read by as many readers as possible. This novel breaks down certain boundaries with its story and forces the reader to think about its contents. The power of this novel lies in the author's way of telling the story in a gripping way and infusing it with elements and scenes that are quite harsh, intense and angry.
I find this novel a compelling combination of amusing and frightening elements, coupled with strangeness and ingenious originality. The story is both insightful and unsettling with all its underlying angriness and feel of an impending explosion that is just waiting to happen when the time is right. What makes the story unique within its own genre is its blend of the familiar and the strange. It has mythic and original qualities to it that set it apart from what has become the norm for near future stories and dystopian fiction. This novel feels like an antidote to countless modern dystopian and near future novels, because it's better, deeper and more intriguing than any of them. Its vision of outsiders and subversion is formidable in its rawness.
A Blast of Hunters begins powerfully with a scene of attempted suicide. In this scene, a drunk man attempts to end his life by lying on the rails and waiting for the train to come and finish his life. Suddenly, he is rescued by an unexpected person and is taken a place which is inhabited by five persons who are outsiders and meet each other in secret: the Star Girl, the Philosopher, the Butcher, the Beggar and Clay Man. He is strangely drawn to this group of unique individuals and finds himself spending time with them. Gradually, he befriends them and is subjected to new sensations. This sparks a change in him...
As the story progresses and the events unfold, the reader is almost imperceptibly hooked by what is going on and becomes fascinated by the characters and their quirks. To be honest, there's simply no putting down this novel once you've let yourself sink into its dark and fascinating world, because it's something different and deeply compelling.
This novel depicts a dystopian future where the city of London has been partly submerged under underwater and certain areas have been swallowed by the sea. The government has become totalitarian and oppressive towards citizens. The consumption of meat is banned and sex without a signed certificate is forbidden. Despite the bleak situation, humans are resilient and fight against oppression and try to survive as well as they can. The housing situation has become bad and chaotic and a few persons have taken refuge below the ground.
The depictions of London and its various areas are atmospheric and vibrant. The author paints a vivid picture of London that has been affected by the rising water. These descriptions are a kind of a literary love letter to London, but the story has several elements that can be seen as an unapologetic social and environmental criticism that is directed at those who rule the world and pass the laws.
I was taken by the versatile cast of characters and found myself intrigued by them. There's richness in the characterisation, because the author manages to flesh out the characters' inner feelings, insecurities and fears by writing about their lives and housing situations in an incredibly honest and raw way.
The protagonist is a well-created and fascinating man. I enjoyed reading about how he felt about being introduced to new experiences and sensations, because his life began to change after being saved. It was rewarding to read about him and how he saw the world and began to notice things that others didn't perceive or were not capable of perceiving.
The Star Girl is an interesting character, because she is kind and caring, but angry and fierce. She feels that there's a need to act upon what has happened, for things can't remain the same. Her rage is hand-felt and feels justified, for the government has made decisions that have affected the lives of many. I also enjoyed reading about the Beggar.
The cast of characters also features the mysterious and allusive Feather, who can be found in many of the author's stories. I was pleased to read again about her, because I've been fascinated by her ever since I first read "Feather: Tales of Isolation and Descent". Her mystical presence serves as a kind of a philosophical guide to the other characters. She is a unique individual whose existence is fascinating and filled with mystery. The story elements that revolve around Feather's character are fascinating and I was impressed by the author's depth of imagination when writing about what Feather revealed to the protagonist.
What I perceive as one of the messages in this novel is that of us humans basically being animals who have urges and basic needs which can't be denied or controlled. Although we've risen - in a certain way - above nature, we're still animals. Proper food, sex and some of our instincts are an essential part of us. Banning them goes against nature.
I find the author's prose beautiful, evocative and strong. He has his own literary voice, which he uses to touch upon challenging themes and issues. His fiction is fascinatingly intelligent, because he explores various things in a thought-provoking way and gives the reader something to think about. In this novel, he has infused the story with elements of happiness, fear, control, rage, surveillance, freedom, sex, violence and oppression.
In case anybody is wondering about the title of this novel, the collective noun for hunters is "a blast" (being not a native English-speaker myself, I had to check this one, for I was not entirely sure about it). When you read the whole story, you'll notice how fitting the title is and how it reflects the story.
If you're like me and expect only the best from literary speculative fiction, you'll be captivated and deeply impressed by this thought-provoking novel. If you're familiar with the author's previous stories, you owe it to yourself to read this novel, because the author delivers an intense and powerful story in his own original and unique style.
Very highly recommended!