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Hater by David Moody
Cover Artist: David Moody
Review by Terry Weyna
Thomas Dunne Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312384838
Date: 17 February 2009 List Price $21.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Hater opens with a seemingly inexplicable event: an average man, a regional manager for a chain of main street discount stores, sees a woman who makes him feel uneasy for reasons he cannot explain. She disappears into the crowd of commuters for a moment, but the man picks her out again--an 80-year-old woman, small, with glasses; why, he wonders, does she seem so threatening to him? But he knows he must act quickly, and he does, pushing his way through the crowd, grabbing her and throwing her against a building. Despite the efforts of others in the crowd to stop him, he uses his umbrella like a bayonet and stabs the woman to death. As the crowd surrounds him, he realizes that almost everyone there is a threat to him, and begins to fight until the police appear and wrestle him to the ground.

As an isolated occurrence, this opening prepares the experienced horror or mystery reader for almost anything. Was the man drugged? Is he under the mind control of another person? Was the woman an alien and he somehow knew it? What’s going on here?

David Moody takes his time letting us in on what’s going on, and he does it well, building suspense steadily as he tells the story through the eyes of Danny McCoyne, a self-described "lazy bastard" stuck in a dead-end job in the Parking Fine Processing office of his unnamed English city. Danny has a family – a wife and three kids, and a father-in-law who helps out now and then with minding the children – and they live in a small (too small) council flat. They're barely getting by on what he and his wife, Lizzie, earn, which is putting a lot of pressure on their marriage. So are the children, who fight constantly and seem to do nothing but watch television. Too many people in too little space with too few outlets for their energy and ambitions seems to have brought this family of five to the brink of its endurance. But endure they do.

But can the family survive what is happening to society? It soon becomes apparent that the manager's assault on the old lady was simply the first in a series of brutal murders by seemingly normal, gentle, ordinary people. A school girl kills her best friend by pounding her with a stone. At a concert, one of the performers begins swinging his guitar at his bandmates. The oddest thing of all is that the murderers are the ones who appear to be terrified, to be killing out of fear of the people they are killing. Before long, the whole world seems to be careening out of control, with police forces operating at full strength and hospitals struggling to cope. No one knows what is causing people to suddenly become violent.

The situation worsens daily. Within a week, schools and businesses are all closed and the news is running on a loop. People are told to remain in their homes and stay safe. Food is becoming scarce. Danny is barricaded into his living room with his children, his wife and his father-in-law and no one seems to be able to trust anyone else. It seems that anyone can suddenly become violent against anyone else, even against family members. How can they even trust one another?

It soon becomes apparent that they can't, and then the story really takes off. Now we start to understand; now we start to really fear, as if what has gone before is only prologue.

Moody self-published Hater online in 2006, but it only appeared in this country in book form in 2009. Moody is an unusual success story, having sold the film rights to Hater to director Guillermo del Toro (director of the Hellboy movies and Pan’s Labyrinth) on his own, without an agent. Hater is the first of a trilogy, and we’re promised the second book, Dog Blood, "soon" according to Hater’s last page. Moody’s website promises the book will be released in 2010.

Hater is a fast and furious read, with bloody action piled upon horrific incident piled upon gruesome violence. The human race is at war with itself, with everything you can imagine that would entail. The writing is clean and sharply focused, the plotting strong and the everyday details believably described.

Even so, this is not a book that one can love, or even dislike. It is horror as product. That is, it offers thrills and chills, makes one tear through it quickly, and is as quickly forgotten. There is nothing new or exciting here. Although the book seems to be meant as a fable for our overcrowded, violent world, it fails to work well from that perspective. Undoubtedly, you will enjoy this book for the time it takes you to read it, but it will not stay with you long.

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