‘Manhunt’ by Gretchen Felker-Martin: Not for the faint-hearted

This Manhunt book review takes a look at the visceral post-apocalyptic horror novel centered around the trans experience.

When I first got the pitch for Manhunt, it was described as an “examination of gender biases and binaries in horror” set against a “splatter-punk background” and all about the importance of found family.

As someone who still considers herself new to horror, I was excited to delve into Manhunt and experience something different. I have a thing for found families, I don’t mind a little body horror, and I’m always interested in queer stories. Plus that cover really caught my eye.

While the idea of a virus-infested world isn’t exactly novel (or unrealistic), this one specifically targeted people with higher levels of testosterone. Not only that, but Manhunt would put a focus on the people typically ignored in situations like this—trans people.

This may be Gretchen Felker-Martin’s debut novel, but let me tell you—she makes an impression. She’s been dubbed the “filthcore queen” by the Anomaly Journal of Arts and Literature, and I think there’s no better description of her writing style.

Manhunt is a scathing look at the collapse of society, and it pulls no punches. Felker-Martin isn’t afraid to create complex, unlikable characters and put them into dangerous and difficult situations. If you like your horror intensely graphic and brutally honest, you’ll find a lot to love here.

If you don’t, well, let me just say this book isn’t for everyone. While it’s true that the feral men are a constant threat, they’re not the only ones. They’re more like zombies—mindless beasts intent on raping and consuming those “lucky” enough to survive the virus.

The real antagonists are TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists), which means we see horrific and often violent transphobia throughout the novel. You’d think the feral men would be enough of a distraction, but these women can’t leave trans and non-binary people alone, either. It will be extremely triggering for some people.

manhunt book review

But if you can stomach the carnage (and there’s no shame if not), Manhunt offers an opportunity for real discourse when it comes to intersectionality related to feminism, sexuality, and gender identity, in addition to racism and fatphobia. It doesn’t sugarcoat these experiences, and there’s something truly refreshing about that.

Normally when I write about a novel I’ve just read, my job is to explain to potential readers why I think it’s worth their time. With this Manhunt book review, I’m shifting the focus a little bit—I want you to be sure you’re fully prepared to read it, if you so choose.

Several characters narrate the book, but the main two are Fran and Beth, two trans women trying to survive the post-apocalyptic world. Not only do they have to worry about keeping their estrogen levels up, but they have to avoid the TERFs at all costs. There’s a lot of inner dialog—and therefore self-hatred—surrounding the inability to pass.

Fran and Beth may be two of the heroes of this story, but they’re not always easy to love. Fran, especially, makes some truly awful decisions. If you enjoy reading complex characters and delving into their motivations and the consequences of their decisions, you’ll enjoy picking apart this story. If nothing else, it’s an honest look at the true horrors of human nature.

Fairly quickly, we’re also introduced to Indi, a cis woman, and Robbie, a trans man. Indi’s story focuses on her medical expertise, as well as the fact that she’s a fat woman. She’s needed by the community, and yet still feels separate from it due to her weight and appearance. Meanwhile, sweet, soft-spoken Robbie doesn’t trust anyone after having lived on his own for years. And the TERFs hate him as much as they hate Fran and Beth.

Then there’s Ramona, a cis-gendered woman in the Legion who’s helping to build the Matriarchy. She looks up to Teach, the HTIC (that’s Head TERF in Charge), and finds herself rising through the ranks as a weapon against all those that oppose their vision. And in her spare time? She’s sleeping with the so-called enemy.

This Manhunt book review could not possibly overstate the brutality of this novel. It is full of slurs and sexual violence, as well as self-hatred and graphic death scenes. If you’re interested in marginalized voices, especially within the horror genre, then I encourage you to pick this one up. If nothing else, it will stay with you long after you finish the final page.

‘Manhunt’ hit store shelves on February 22, 2022

Buy Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin from Tor Nightfire, Bookshop.org, Book Depository, or Amazon. You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

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