“To me, the greatest possible horror is not that humanity might end, but that our Empire of Stupidity might last forever.” Never has a truer phrase been spoken by narrator and acerbic restaurant critic Jonathan Salvador Tamblerlain, better known as ‘The Tomahawk’ to his admiring fans. He nails the rage of a society ruled by the elite, who manipulate the weak for their own means.
We meet Jonathan at the start of his quest to dine at the Undersea restaurant in Hotel Grand Skies, the Empyrean, after he receives a mysterious photo of the establishment. He’s full of intrigue as he embarks on this ambitious search. Upon his arrival, things take a turn for the weird, with battle commencing between guests and hotel staff.
It’s all bonkers and compelling, as Suddain guides the reader through a claustrophobic and manic stay in a grand setting via Jonathan’s distinct musings. Aside from being packed full of stimulating ideas and smart observations, Suddain’s turn of phrase conjures an exhilarating ambience of chaos. Dense passages often end with one perfect line or quip of scathing humour akin to Stewart Lee’s biting satirical worldview. Previous comparisons to Douglas Adams witty wordplay are entirely fitting.
The mash-up of gory detail, sci-fi and dystopian horror are blended harmoniously as Suddain switches between frank letters to fans and family, revealing magazine articles, candid critics’ notes and transcripts. Suddain also weaves a strangely moving relationship between Jonathan and Gladys with a back and forth of explicit cussing and violent altercations. Their back stories are shaded in with a deft hand to ensure the novel’s denouement has impact.
The frenzied nature of the writing in Hunters And Collectors may prove to pose a challenge to some, but Suddain captures the surreal desperation of the modern world with a sharp eye.