A Grand Notion: Hunter’s Run

Cover of "Hunter's Run"
Cover of Hunter’s Run

Hunter’s Run by Daniel AbrahamGardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin is a story that wouldn’t quit. First conceived in 1976, this book took its authors on a merry chase till its completion in 2007.

Since the authors are well-known (if you don’t know them, please check out their wiki pages linked above), I won’t bore you with their biographies. Suffice to know that they are all well-known science-fiction authors.

Instead, we’ll just get into the story and see if we can’t deduce the authors’ Grand Notion of Hunter’s Run.

Hunter’s Run is about a man named Ramon Espejo. A prospector on a newly colonized planet, São Paulo, Ramon is often on the wrong side of the law and his morality. That suits him fine until he kills a diplomat in a knife fight. Knowing that he probably can’t get away with murdering someone from the upper classes, in his run-down, prospector’s hovercraft, he heads out for the remote, northern mountains in hopes of hiding from the law for a few months until the hubbub blows over.

And that’s when the adventure begins.

Well, actually, more like a nightmare, but for the reader it is definitely an adventure. Think The Fugitive – with Aliens.

(shudder)

Ramon finds himself on a narrow shelf on the steep slopes of a mountain. Something caught his eye while passing over and he thought to check out whether there was anything that might be worthy of a sample. But, unfortunately for him, he makes a startling discovery: aliens.

And not the semi-benign aliens that have traded with humans for the past hundred years or so. Oh, no. Nothing like those. This particular alien is…well, alien. Ramon has no idea what the alien is all about, but he does know one thing – it wants to kill him.

A quick scuffle ensues and the alien captures our hero. (For indeed, what is a fugitive story without an alien abduction?) Ramon is treated like cattle (with a prod like appliance and everything). They put him into a holding tank and render him unconscious. When next he wakes, Ramon learns that life will soon get much worse. His scary, alien care-taker, Maneck, requires that Ramon hunt for another human intruder who is running back to the safety of the colony and who may very well tell everyone about the hidden alien species.

For the reminder of the story, Ramon, Maneck and the unknown fugitive are on the run, trying to out-smart each other and the native, wild species. Ramon soon realizes there is more to life than he once thought and he begins to understand a bit more about this new alien race. In doing so, he learns a bit about himself – even when he realizes he’ll have to kill the man in the mirror.

What’s so special about this story?

For me, what makes Hunter’s Run special is the ethnicity of Ramon Espejo. He’s a Mexican. This is the first science-fiction book I’ve read that squarely puts a Mexican in the limelight. Yes, I was a bit perturbed that Ramon was so…violent and uncouth. But put in context of all the other violent fantasy/science fiction books out there, it pales in comparison. I think it was a splendid idea for the authors to put real-world problems (immigrants from poor regions of earth migrating to another nation (or planet, in this case) for the chance at a better life) in a science-fiction setting. I loved it.

And that’s not all that makes Hunter’s Run shine. For me, the authors truly put our notions of identity up for scrutiny. Just who are we? When our ethnicity is stripped away, what does it mean to be human? Is it different? Who do you ultimately hold allegiance to? Your family long dead on a planet light-years away? Yourself; half drunk all the time and prone to violent outbreaks? The people who pay for you to work your ass off? Or is there something out there worthy of our respect and dignity? Or better yet, is there an idea worthy of our understanding?

While ultimately an adventure story (with incredible world-building), the authors do give you pause to think in Hunter’s Run. I am not saying this book is perfect. And it is definitely not politically correct, but it does get one ruminating about resource exploitation, what it means to be alien, and reminds us: we are all human.

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