If you’re seeking post-apocalyptic horror narratives centering on trans and nonbinary bodies and experiences, look no further than Gretchen Felker-Martin’s astonishing debut, Manhunt. It’s provocative, brutal, and a well-nuanced exploration of sexual violence, gender dysphoria, and gender essentialism.
I received an e-ARC of Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
To my trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming readers: If you’re struggling or in a toxic environment, please know that there is help. Please contact the Trans Lifeline.
Fran and Beth travel through a ravaged New England. The T-rex virus has been turning men and anyone with enough testosterone in their body (i.e., PCOS) into terrifying zombie-like beasts. The TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists), now militarized, hunt and execute the surviving trans girls and trans women.
To avoid succumbing to the fate of turning into monsters, Fran and Beth eat the balls of the men they hunt. As trans women, they have more to worry about than being devoured by the infected. Fran and Beth are targeted by the TERFs, the ones who deserve to be exterminated. After eventually befriending a trans man named Robbie and reuniting with a scientist named Indi, they find themselves living in a bunker where they’re assigned jobs. But things in this underground community aren’t what they seem.
Don’t sleep on this spectacular novel. Gretchen doesn’t waste the story with unnecessary filler or extraneous descriptions. Every scene, character dynamic, and dialogue matters. The worldbuilding offers enough to paint a complete portrait of this future. The characters, so dimensional and complicated and memorable, feel like real people with their desires and contradictions.
She explores the motivations and objectives of the Maryland Womyn’s Legion, including castrating male children and turning them into eunuchs called maenads. Ramona, a member of the Legion, struggles between her loyalty to the cause and her secret love for Feather, a nonbinary person. Most importantly, Gretchen doesn’t hold back on discussions of gender and sexual violence. However, the conversation surrounding gender and violence in Manhunt avoids preachy territory.
This novel will rightfully make some readers, regardless of sexual and or gender identity, uncomfortable. Gretchen lets her characters be with their actions and desires. As an avid reader myself, I personally find Manhunt as the most thought-provoking and blunt story I’ve ever come across.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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