cover image Shadow Hunter

Shadow Hunter

Will Baker. Pocket Books, $21 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-79046-2

Baker's ( Hell, West, and Crooked ) first work of speculative fiction is a complex and ambitious but ultimately unaffecting thriller. In the 22nd century, the northern hemisphere enjoys high-tech prosperity, while the southern half of the globe is an irradiated desert, peopled by the underground-dwelling mutant Ginks, who are regarded by northerners as subhuman primitives. On a hunting trip to a rare wildlife preserve in the north, a top government official and his teenage son become prey to one of the increasingly frequent animal attacks, and the boy disappears. Evidence of the Ginks' involvement sets off a political firestorm as a radical government faction arises pledging to eradicate the Ginks and all other ``uncontrollable'' wildlife. The fate of nature itself comes to rest on whether the boy is found alive or dead--and by whom. Though intricately plotted and competently written, the novel's emotional impact is muted by cliched political intrigues and opaque Gink mysticism. The author fails to portray his eco-dystopia effectively, leaving the impression that its worst threat to humanity lies in something akin to termite infestations and a stubborn mold. Overall, this work rings hollow. (July)