Hunters & Collectors Paperback – 7 Jul 2016
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"On the one hand, it’s a galaxy-spanning space opera with intrigue, adventure and fascinating tech extrapolations. On the other, it’s a hilarious, almost Nabokovian account of a food critic’s gastronomic misadventures as he conducts a tour of restaurants on dozens of far-flung planets. Suddain manages the almost impossible task of balancing cosmic scope with slapstick, intricate wordplay and dialogue at times worthy of PG Wodehouse… Hunters & Collectors is a misanthropic joy ride by a ridiculously talented writer and one of the most unusual novels of the year." (Jeff VanderMeer Guardian)
"Aside from being packed full of stimulating ideas and smart observations, Suddain’s turn of phrase conjures an exhilarating ambience of chaos… Previous comparisons to Douglas Adams witty wordplay are entirely fitting… Suddain captures the surreal desperation of the modern world with a sharp eye." (SciFi Now)
"On evidence of Hunters & Collectors let me make a prediction: M. Suddain…is destined for greatness." (Ian Sansom Times Literary Supplement)
"It’s beautifully written, and this labyrinthine and sharply satirical novel will surely draw you in." (Sci-Fi Now, Book of the Year)
The universe’s most feared restaurant critic is on the hunt for the greatest meal of his life – a novel which reads like Vonnegut directing Grand Budapest Hotel, in spaceSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The first part of the book is totally fabulous. The writing is tight, original, witty, and imaginative, Jonathan's career arc and abrupt termination being described in his own coruscating words in letters to associates. Once he becomes infamous, he becomes aware of a mysterious hotel that promises the meal of which dreams are made but which is incredibly selective and refuses to admit critics. Half believing it is a myth, he resolves to find it and write a review. Then, things take a most unexpected turn....
I won't throw in any spoilers but, although the quality of the writing diminishes not a jot, after the crisp brilliance of the starter, the main course is daunting. Lots of stuff happens, and it's funny, horrific, surreal and mysterious as Jonathan struggles with his companions and his grip on reality. But I can't decide if I simply lost the narrative thread in the complexity or there just wasn't one. Confusion reigned for 300 pages. I found that the pudding of denoument came as a relief that it was all over, rather than a glorious end of a meal.
If you like books like Cloud Atlas, or the books of Clare North, you might enjoy this.
I read it twice, the second time - straight after I finished the first time.
Very funny indeed.
The dysfunctional relationships and dialogue between the main protagonist, Tamberlain, and his entourage is laugh out loud hilarious, and yet entirely believable.
The story - a complex sci fi soap opera in a multi layered war zone and yet, somehow manages to suspend your disbelief.
Buy, read and lend, spread the word...
This book was like nothing I'd read recently, or in fact at all (the closest are perhaps Night Film by Marisha Presel - but that is still very different - or from another perspective Viriconium by M John Harrison - but again, different).
To begin with, take the setting. Even after finishing the book I wasn't clear whether the journeys of John Tamberlain were interplanetary trips, or took place on the face of this world between cities or city states (there are some familiar placenames, among the alien-sounding ones) or on some other world or even in a different kind of cosmology, where our idea of a "world" doesn't hold at all. There is talk of East and West being opposed regions, but it's very sketchy, and the maps only add to the mystery. (Are they maps? Charts? They seem to have a mathematical regularity, as though the whole story is set in some kind of fractal space: I wanted to tear out the separate leaves, with their strange elliptical curves, to see if they would fit together into a bigger whole).
Then, there is the sheer... I don't know... effect of the book. Suddain creates an extraordinary and distinctive tone in this book, utterly suited to the story and the strange, shifting characters.
Here is Tamberlain's account of something that happened when he was seven:
My father had tried to ostensibly discipline me, while secretly congratulating me behind her [his mother's] back. She'd caught him, they'd fought, and I'd run off, spending several weeks on the streets. (And when I say 'on the streets' I mean I sold the watch I'd got for my seventh birthday, used the money to find a few undervalued first editions in a local book market, sold them to a dealer for a modest profit, and checked myself into a reasonably priced pension run by a woman who collected giant crickets.) I stayed there until the private detective hired by my mother tracked me down. He told me a few tricks to avoid being tracked next time...
That is the book in microcosm - the slightly surreal nature of what happens, Tamberlain's penchant for travel (but always in comfort) and the good things in life, coupled with his haphazard fortune and bizarre family background. (We're told at one point that his mother was executed by machine gun: but not why or by whom - the book's full of mysteries like that).
Tamberlain seems to be something akin to a blogger (nickname: The Tomahawk) making a very good living from anonymous, scathing restaurant reviews ("stealth attacks"). The opening of the book, told though his letters and diaries, including some rather testy correspondence with his fans, sees him travel (the universe? the world? Both or neither?) occasionally returning to Monsterat's, the restaurant run by his childhood friend, Nanse.
Then things seem to go wrong. Through no fault of his own, Tamberlain wrecks Nanse's life then gets into deep, deep trouble himself. In the later part of the book, he's in reduced circumstances, his reputation gone, and pursued by enemies. He does, however, have a fanatically loyal agent (who he calls Beast) and bodyguard (Gladys, a former Water Bear). Together they take on the challenge of finding the semi-mythical Hotel Grand Skies, known only through rumour and conjecture, there to enjoy one perfect meal...
In between we get weirdly familiar yet distorted history (invasions, revolutions, dictatorship, massacres), increasingly desperate attempts by Tamberlain at self justification, at explaining how he meant no harm, it was all a terribly mistake (his account would be hard to believe, if everything else in the book wasn't so odd anyway) and a distinct impression that someone - or something - has noticed him. There are bizarre and deadly encounters, such as with a heavily pregnant woman and two gangsters on a train at sea, which Tamberlain seems to shrug off: we're given the impression that his work involves a great deal of actual violence - as well as deception.
But that's only the starter. The Hotel Grand Skies episode is the main course of this book - in which things REALLY turn weird. It's like a collision between The Wicker Man, Bladerunner and Hotel Babylon - with an added side order of blood and guts. Truly, truly strange, with at least two levels of mystery - will the fractious, ill matched threesome ever get away with all their bits intact? And what the blazes is actually going on? Suddain is tricksy with the answers: to a degree we're left to choose what we want to believe - this book won't resolve neatly.
Through all this, Tamberlain's obsession with "his meal" becomes increasingly discordant, increasingly unhinged. It's bizarre, bizarre bizarre but truly riveting and while Tamberlain is often a truly insufferable character, I actually did find myself warming to him by the end.
It's a hard book to describe. You really have to read it. For those who like this sort of thing it is a wondrous read - and I loved it. I suspect that it isn't for everyone, but do give it a try: if you're not going to get on with it I think you'll know quite soon.
We are introduced to John Tamberlain a food critic (or forensic gastronomer), whose interplanetary restaurant reviews can make or break an establishment. After an amusing introduction to the origins of John Tamberlain and how he became known by his anonymous pseudonym ‘The Tomahawk’, the plot centre’s on Tamberlain’s efforts to hunt down and gain entry to the most exclusive and legendary of eating establishments; The Grand Skies Hotel, to experience the ultimate meal. My last few sentences don’t really do the book justice as Suddain is one of those author’s, when you discover, that makes you wonder where the hell has he been until now?!
This is the first book in a very long while that I just couldn’t put down. The writing is hilarious, witty and the plots various twists and turns are a delight to read. It’s huge credit to Suddain’s imagination that he manages to pull off a such a feat of subtle comic brilliance, that I was disappointed to have the book come to an end. The writing is just superb.
Buy it and immerse yourself in some fantastical escapism. And check out his previous book ‘Theatre of Gods’ after you’ve finished.
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I couldn't put it down and fell in love with every character.Read more
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