Scavenger Hunt sounds and feels familiar at the outset, but by playing with the expected format, author Michaelbrent Collings manages to craft something that feels a little more fresh.
Synopsis: Five strangers have woken up in a white room. A room with no doors, no windows. A room with no hope. Because these strangers have been kidnapped, drugged…and brought here as the newest contestants in the world’s most high-stakes scavenger hunt. Run by a madman named Mr. Do-Good the game offers only two options: win or die. All they have to do to survive is…
… complete every task…
… on time…
… and not break any of Do-Good’s rules.
Playing the game will bring the players to their breaking point and
beyond. But play they will, because Do-Good has plans for these
strangers, and their only chance to live through the night is to play
his Scavenger Hunt.
The idea of forcing troubled strangers together to take part in a twisted game for their survival feels so well-worn that it is difficult to imagine how anything can put a new spin on it. While not entirely new, Collings quickly escapes from writing a one-location ordeal and allows the game to take them outside, often in daylight. This doesn’t lessen the grisly nature of the tasks, however, and the violence leaps off the page. The early fast pace and injections of evolving threats give the book an energetic quality in the central storyline.
The situation the characters find themselves in is intriguing but this is often derailed. Too much is taken up by seemingly excessive backstories that do not resonate until much later in the book. The story of Solomon Black’s gang history feels like a story in itself and so it’s length and depth feels out of place in an ensemble piece. We receive long backstories for some characters, but very few details for others leading to feeling detached. The fact that we get the longest backstories for characters like Solomon and Chong who are perhaps the hardest to root for also adds to this feeling of detachment.
While omitting some character details throughout does make some events feel left-field and unpredictable this feels like it could have been achieved more dynamically. Lengthy departures from the central story do offer some context but are possibly too detailed and occasionally distract with too many details that by the conclusion of the story, actually don’t feel very important to the overall package. Without spoiling anything, these omissions are essential for important reveals so it is a shame that they feel suddenly sprung on the reader rather than evolving naturally throughout.
There is an effort to reframe earlier actions as important but it feels like signposting that would not be necessary if more was woven throughout the rest of the narrative. Those elements having attention drawn to them so explicitly feels like the author has an awareness that there isn’t quite enough for readers to go on without those details. The longer backstories for characters like Solomon and Chong mean there’s considerably less time to explore Clint, Elena and Noelle. The sinister Mr Do Good and the traps attached to the players is a good device, even if, as a reader, you figure out their purpose pretty quickly.
Scavenger Hunt is not for the sensitive – it is befittingly mean-spirited and explores bleak and uncomfortable subject matter. Violence and gore are described in visceral detail. The book is interrupted at times by police reports, first detailing a witness interrogation and later, features YouTube comments. The comments reveal that the actions detailed within the book are in the public domain, adding another level of discomfort. The theme of the internet as a facilitator of terrible crimes runs under the work, but it is made clear that it the motivations of humans, rather than the tool itself.
If you are looking for a dark, bombastic thriller with plenty of nasty moments with flawed but interesting characters you should check out Scavenger Hunt. Find more information about Scavenger Hunt and Michaelbrent Collins at the Goodreads page for the book here.