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THE HUNTERS
By BURT WETANSON, THOMAS HOOBLER (Playboy Press; 1978/79)

A mildly diverting alien invasion horror story involving extraterrestrial tourists on a hunting expedition in a small Montana community. The designated victims are a band of ordinary people lured from their homes by a mysterious man and woman who dub themselves "The Couple."

     This pair claim to be divine beings, and change their forms depending on who's observing them (to the eyes of a black man they appear dark-skinned, to a young boy they resemble twin Spidermans). They transport the spellbound townspeople via bus to a secluded ghost town, with the promise that they'll "transcend their physical bodies and enter a higher plane."

     The characters include Sally Elizabeth, the town's oldest resident; Sam, the token black man; Joshua, a spunky young boy; Jeff and Bonnie, Josh's down-to-Earth parents; and Eaglefeather, a Native American who periodically dispenses handy bits of ancient wisdom. All find themselves in a major quandary when their alleged benefactors unveil an alien spaceship that fires deadly laser beams, and disgorges a gaggle of gun-wielding creatures intent on killing them all.

     All this is related in suitably fast-moving and highly cinematic fashion. The book was evidently conceived with a movie sale in mind, and may indeed have been an inspiration on PREDATOR (which in any event is an altogether superior account). Note the action-heavy narrative and shockingly inconclusive ending, which in true Hollywood fashion sets the stage for a sequel.

     A far more grievous complaint is with the frequent alien POV passages. Yes, the authors insist on giving us the aliens' take on events, or at least that of an all-powerful "Commander" who leads a group of ill-equipped galaxy-hopping tourists. These bits, rendered in English dialogue, are sorely lacking in conviction or otherwordliness, and nudge the proceedings into unintentional comedy--which, given the uninspiring bent of the overall book, is not a good thing!

     

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