Oh boy. I didn't think I'd be coming back to write another review of a truly terrible novel, but I really have to because this is really something else. Man Hunt is written by Gretchen Falker-Martin and was spluttered up onto the internets in April 2022 like a particularly tricky blob of phlegm from the lungs of a COVID-19 patient and immediately lauded by a certain type of terminally online twatter user as The Great Trans Novel, but by the rest of the population as a terribly written mess of bad ideas that makes little to no sense.
The squalid masturbation fantasy of a certain type of trans activist.
A bit more detail?
The squalid masturbation fantasy of a certain type of trans activist. No really, that's all it is.
The novel begins with two trans women (male to female) hiding in the undergrowth with a crossbow. They are staking out a terf for some reasons with said crossbow in between killing off feral men. With some clunky expository dialogue we are informed that this is The Future after a plague decimated the world. The plague is by an airborne virus completely ignores women but causes men to degenerate into semi-sentient cannibalistic brute beasts. However feral men have to be culled and their testes harvested to turn into oestrogen tablets by sympathetic cis woman scientists so the trans women don't devolve when their latest batch of pills wears off. Ahem. But they miss and accidentally shoot an innocent bystander in the face.
Big problem? Nah, it'll be fine. She had it coming because she had "white girl dreads" and therefore death was the penalty. Can you see where this is going yet? I can.
We then learn that in The Future trans women are outlawed because terves are in charge of everything. And because they aren't "real" women, the trans women are an existential threat and must be stomped out. However there are brave (and stunning) trans resistance fighters like the protagonist and friend. We also learn that the head terf used to be an interrogator at Guantanamo Bay because of course she did. Subtlety, thy name is not Gretchen Falker-Martin. Needless to say, the terfocracy doesn't like trans women roaming around shooting them with crossbows and sends death squads after them. Who are called the Knights of J. K. Rowling.
Anyhow. In the midst of all this dubious wish fulfillment, the protagonists have endless expository dialogue with each other about shit that neither develops characters nor advances the plot. Infodumps, basically. They also encounter a trans man who is trying to pass while only taking enough hormones to do so but not devolve into a morlock. Needless to say, herein lies our romantic subplot which adds nothing to the narrative whatever. During one of these expository dialogues is a delightful passage about how J. K. Rowling died in a fire when she had her fellow terves and male followers barricaded themselved in her castle in Scotland, Masque of the Red Death style, with air filters to keep the plague out and it burned down and they all died. It will of course be noted that this adds nothing to the plot, nor does it develop a character, but solely functions as a way to I. provide masturbatory fuel for the author and the author's target market, II. court deliberate controversy. So, just as planned then. Still doesn't make it good writing though.
Rent free. Rent. FUCKING. Free.
It was roughly at this point that I realised that the whole setup of the novel basically is kind of, well, proving Gretchen Felker-Martin's adversaries right. The novel opens with a quote of the You Will Never Be A Real Woman copypasta from 4chan. You can google this if you want to see it for yourself, but the gist of it is that no, trans women aren't real women because they still have XY chromosomes, male patterned pelvises, and what Alan Partridge would have called "hands like a goalkeeper." Okay then. But then the rest of the novel, in its quest to argue against this thesis and have strawman version of the author's online foes... proves it all right. I shall explain. The T. rex virus that causes all men to become flesh-crazed brute beasts works by targeting people with a certain mix of hormones, yes? Well then. The protagonist and the rest of the trans resistors (transistors?) have to constantly keep their hormone levels within certain ranges. They are, in effect, fighting an endless and likely doomed battle with the forces of entropy in order to exist as women in a setting in which not being women is impossible. Only... at the end of the day, they will inevitably succumb to the reality of the situation, which is that one day, they WILL degrade into unthinking beasthood because without the constant input of hormones, they cannot stay as women.
Now I do get the metaphor that the author's trying to make here, don't get me wrong. But this only adds to the novel's woes. High concept settings are all well and good until someone stops and thinks about them, then the paper over the cracks starts to show, and Man Hunt is no exception. Okay. So the terfocracy are hellbent on wiping out all trans women, and that, the novel makes clear at all stages, is Unequivocally Bad. Only, in the context of the setting, which is one where the threads that hold society apart have completely unravelled other than in a few pockets here and there, it's... kind of justified. Sorry, but in a world where someone is reliant on an intake of difficult to refine pharmaceutical products for an indefinite period so as not to become an immediate danger to life and limb to other members of society, such a person could be argued with some justification to be an existential threat. And the author trying to get us to empathise with the monster? Yes, it can be done, but it's been done way before, and better. In fact it's the whole conceit of the tabletop role playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. Monsters we are lest monsters we become.
So then you have to wonder, what are the terfocracy trying to protect other than their own continued existence? They're all women. Men can't exist in this setting. How are they going to procreate? Didn't think this though, did you Gretchen? Oh wait, they've got their own stable of trans sex slaves who haven't had bottom surgery yet who they hop aboard the cocks of to get up the stick. Yes. Like that's going to work. I'm no endocrinologist but I suspect that being on oestrogen for prolonged periods does at the very least a number on your sperm count. Like I said, the papering over the cracks becomes visible, and the more you see it, the more you can't unsee it.
But let's back up a step. The author is trying to make her own moral standards that she could only have in current year (due to the social and economic and industrial base we possess as a civilisation and because we live in a society) some sort of universal thing and making anyone who doesn't adhere to it, even if they have valid reasons, a designated villain. And by extension, the protagonists as designated heroes. In fact the latter is replete throughout the novel. Protagonist centred morality. That bit I referred to above where the protagonist crossbows a woman who gets in the way of the one that she's trying to assassinate? Nah, it'll be fine. She had white girl dreads. Another person who the protagonists cheerfully murder later on in the novel, despite not really having done anything that might merit it, is rationalised because it's revealed that that one was a lesbian until graduation so they're fair game. I could go on but I'd bore you. And this is really the worst failing of Man Hunt as a novel. The whole setting, the characters, the plot... all are sacrificed in favour of allowing the author to air a squalid masturbation fantasy in public, and strawman all critics into the bargain. The bits where certain real life persons who call themselves "gender critical" are then hilariously killed off in humiliating ways that add nothing to the plot and fail to develop characters and are clearly just inserted for edgelording purposes as well.
So yes, like I said at the outset, Man Hunt is the squalid masturbation fantasy of a certain type of trans activist. It has no real merit as a novel, the characters are uninteresting and designated heroes, the setting is stupid and ill thought through, and J. K. Rowling lives rent free in its author's head.
If you want to laugh at this for yourself, /msg me and I'll dropbox you a PDF of it.