Gretchen Felker-Martin’s new novel has plenty of blood, gore and surprises

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Book cover of
Book cover of "Manhunt" by Gretchen Felker-Martin

Review of the new book Manhunt

It’s just a little stick in the arm.

Just a poke, a tiny jab, a brief ouch, and you have your opinions about it. On one hand, you hate getting sick; on the other, well, it’s complicated. You don’t even like to see needles on TV but it’s obvious that viruses have a way of upsetting everything — And in the new book Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin, this virus will make you howl…

Beth sometimes wondered where it came from.

Spreading the t. rex virus would have been easy, just a matter of leaving an open cannister by a heating vent somewhere or sprinkling it in a crowd. Who would do that, though? Who would release a virus that turned every post-pubescent male into a crazed, deformed, wolf-like killing machine?

Beth idly thought about it, as she and Fran tried to get back to their healer, and safety. Answers might never be knowable but no matter: they were too busy harvesting as many testicles they could get from the men-creatures they eliminated, so their healer could make the estrogen they needed. They had to stay safe and alive. Kill or be killed.

Sometimes, Fran couldn’t help but feel sorry for Beth… and for herself, for that matter. Fran’s transition was almost complete when the virus began spreading, when husbands, sons, and brothers suddenly became monsters. There was no time for bottom surgery but she was almost there, and at least she looked feminine. She might fool a TERF, but Beth never would. Beth was big, blocky, and still boy-muscled; there was no way she’d ever be a girl.

Robbie always felt that he was better off on his own. He had supplies and was self-sufficient, as long as the TERFs — cisgender women who’d created a fierce army — didn’t catch him. Though he was still menstruating, a trans man was a man.

And to the TERFs, a man, any kind of male no matter what, had to die.

You can take this as a siren, add fireworks: Manhunt is not a novel for everyone.

It’s not for anyone who can’t stand gruesomeness, or who hates having their heart sieze due to explicit sex, surprises, cringey scenes, or jumpy scares. Don’t hand it off to anyone who can’t tolerate feminism or a happily-never-after.

What this book is, though, is for someone with a deep, affectionate fondness for all of the above plus pockets of plot-brilliance, dark humor in a blow-them-all-to-pieces vein, buckets of blood and gore, moments that might make you urp a little, and monsters that live among us. Some tolerance for plot-holes is also needed for full enjoyment; author Gretchen Felker-Martin leaves readers with a few big WHY?s hanging over her smoking Armageddon, and while they’re mostly forgivable, they may still nag.

This book has the feel of a video game your mother wouldn’t let you have because it might give you nightmares. In this case, she was right: this truly is a keeps-you-up-all-night story with streaks of modern-day. Indeed, Manhunt is worth a shot.

Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin, c.2022, Macmillan Nightfire, $17.99, 304 pages