Book Review: ‘The Hunger’ by Alma Katsu
The ill-fated group of pioneers known as, the Donner Party have become infamous throughout history, as the stranded group resorted to depravity and cannibalism to survive. The snow covered landscape filled with blood and death which the Donner family and those in their party experienced is the perfect breeding ground for horror, and author Alma Katsu takes full advantage of that in her historical fiction, the Hunger. From the perspective of a multitude of characters we see the ill-fated journey unfold as tensions rise and travelers vanish along the way. The entire time they are stalked by a supernatural evil spoken of in hushed tones by those who live in the region.
The Hunger may catch readers off guard due to its slow burn style, granted it does make sense to structure the book this way given how we already know what happens to the Donner Party. With Alma Katsu taking a slow approach we as the readers have plenty of time to watch how the dynamics between the characters unfold and how things fall apart. Throughout the unfolding saga there is a pervading uneasiness as it is clear that there is something watching these travelers that is slowly but surely getting closer and more dangerous. This is established from the get-go when a boy from the part meets a grisly fate which should serve as an omen to everyone else. When we finally get to the party at their weakest that is when the true horror of the book is revealed and the monsters that have been silently stalking them begin their attack.
Alma Katsu should be applauded for mixing real historical horrors with supernatural terror in a way which keeps you engaged. Each member of the Hunger’s sprawling cast of characters is well-rounded and fleshed out almost daring the readers to become attached to them despite the fact that their fate is sealed. Much like the real Donner Party there is no heroism but ordinary people forced to the absolute brink of survival having to make difficult choices in an unforgiving landscape. The Hunger is far from a feel-good affair but it engrossing horror tale which will leave you chilled.