When the synopsis of “The Hungry Ones” says that the city is alive, that is 100% not hyperbole. Gomel has crafted a semi-cyberpunk dystopian where the city itself is a sentient being where the poor, the outcasts, all live on the lowest levels, and the elite high above the labyrinth in glittering towers of flesh and bone. Where the humans of the city have ‘arms that are sentient whip-like weapons embedded in their palms, and the living brain of the city births’ its own odd looking residents. Some of whom are inanimate objects brought to life, like yarn balls or traffic cones. It sounds vaguely funny, but this book is anything but—in a good way. “The Hungry Ones” is a literary fiction, fantasy horror ride that follows a woman who can’t remember who she is, but has a devastating power that can both stop the zombie-like Hungry Ones plaguing the city, and potentially save the city from a looming war with the country. This book was full of disturbing imagery, unexpected twists, and also beautifully written.
While this book doesn’t shy away from gore and violence, that’s not what was disturbing about it. But instead the idea of trains being living things that can eat people, their tracks sentient worm-like things crawling across the city, the buildings with fleshy walls that will gladly absorb a human and spit them out as something… different, was both very imaginative and fantastical, but also really horrific at times, which I liked a lot! But it’s definitely not for everyone, so just be prepared for that going in. And while I found the prose of this novel to be very well done, an intricate mix of horror and beauty, the story can feel a bit slow at times as things lead up to the final conflict. And while this book was full of twists as to who certain characters are and what’s going on between the city and the country, how the Hungry Ones came into being, and who/what Grandfather is, not all twists were a surprise, and some of the characters identities seemed a bit obvious, which is probably a good thing or else this novel may have been too twisty to follow. And while the prose and the descriptions were wonderfully done, the prose can be a bit much at times so the action becomes a little fuzzy, but otherwise I never felt lost in this warped world of Gomel’s. The story was unique and the book is full of the kind of morally grey characters that I love best. Everyone is flawed, their desires both selfish and altruistic, so even the most unique looking characters felt believable in this fantastic setting and you genuinely care about what happens to them.
This was a slow burn book, one whose ending is definitely worth the slower pace. If you like literary fiction fantasy with flavors of horror and bizarre imagery tied to metaphors, and you aren’t put off by said imagery, then this is definitely a book you need to check out! There were only a few things that I wasn’t a huge fan of, and the dialogue could be a bit clunky at times (perhaps by design?), which is why I’m giving this 4 stars, but otherwise I highly enjoyed this atmospheric story! And thanks to the author for sending me a copy for an honest review.
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