Alma Katsu has joined me to talk her novel The Hunger, we also chat the method behind writing historical fiction, her background, and eating human flesh, in a pinch of course.
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It’s rare that I delve into historic fiction, I don’t really have a reason not to, it just doesn’t happen that much. Perhaps it’s because the general day-to-day of contemporary stories grabs hold of realities I know as a backdrop, and with historic fiction, I usually don’t know anything about the events beforehand. With The Hunger, that’s obviously a bit different, as everybody knows a little something-something about the Donner Party. Turns out the real story isn’t a creepy ride with demons and zombie-like, posthumous attacks.
Luckily, The Hunger is that, and a bit more.
Knowing things are not going to go well is one point made abundantly clear from the opening—not that it wouldn’t be pretty obvious given the famous content. Alma Katsu clued in on this with an immediate and budding sense of dread. Quickly and often, folks are told this trek isn’t going to be easy and still they trudge on. Realistically so. Humans are pretty stubborn most of the time, even idiotic in the face of trouble in order to stick to their intentions. This sets an easy dinner table for the cannibalistic carry through.
And for me, that was one piece I was looking for going in. Sure the elements can leave human flesh the only thing remaining in the mobile pantry, but getting there with perfect reason needs to occur. It did. Greed and social status became apparent motivators amidst the great stubbornness, and the way Alma Katsu wrote it, it read like reality. Shameful reality.
Throughout, The Hunger features flashbacks to round out characters, which are helpful and enliven the scenes, but at least one was poorly placed. It came in the middle of a suspenseful approach to climax. Otherwise I liked them.
That said, the story carts along at a good pace and the dread and suspense are regular and palpable. The writing is clean and smooth. The characters pull good weight when they have to, and nothing seems wasteful.
The Hunger is a pretty tasty treat and I recommend it.