cover image The Hunger

The Hunger

Alma Katsu. Putnam, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1251-0

Katsu (The Taker) injects the supernatural into this brilliant retelling of the ill-fated Donner Party. In the prologue, set in April 1847, a team of rescuers sets out to find the last survivor of the expedition, Lewis Keseberg, but they locate only his abandoned cabin. “What looked like a human vertebra, cleaned of skin” and a “scattering of teeth” lie outside in the snow. Flash back to June 1846. George Donner is leading a wagon train to California. Those headed west often leave letters under rocks in the hope that an eastbound traveler will retrieve them and take them to the nearest post office. In one place, one of Donner’s teenage daughters finds hundreds of such letters, all with the ominous message: “Turn back or you will die.” Then a young boy disappears and is later found savagely mutilated, as if by an animal. The members of the party come to suspect that shape-changers are responsible for the carnage, and they encounter increasing challenges to their survival. Fans of Dan Simmons’s The Terror will find familiar and welcome chills. Author tour. Agent: Richard Pine, Inkwell Management. (Mar.)