“ Genre: Horror / Author: David Moody / Paperback / 240 Pages / Book is published 2009-02-19 by Gollancz „
* Prices may differ from that shown
before they do unto you.
This book seems to have been classed as yet another zombie fiction title. Personally I would not classify it as this, but rather as apocalyptic fiction. The dead do not rise, nor are there any mindless stumbling flesh eaters. Instead there is an epidemic of hatred. Ordinary people who suddenly turn on those nearest to them using any means at their disposal to murder their victims. But even in the height of a killing spree - they still retain their intelligence. They can open locks, use weapons etc... There violence is not completely random, it is restricted only to those who have not changed as they have, who have not been taken over by their most primal instincts. Among other infected humans, they display an exceptional level of kindness and compassion.
But as the book opens, Danny McCoyne has no idea that a change is taking place. He witnesses a brutal murder on the way to work Friday, but shrugs it off as a random act of violence. Even though the next two times he leaves the house he witnesses more murders, and the news seems to be full of extreme acts of unprovoked violence, it takes Danny awhile to figure out something isn't quite right.
He stumbles on through his miserable life - and Danny is miserable, but I never felt much sympathy for him. He is trapped in a dead end job - but admittedly he never puts anything more than the minimum effort required to avoid being sacked into his work. He hates his boss, doesn't get on very well with his workmates, and has a poor relationship with his family. He hates his father in law, despite the fact that the man does help them quite a lot and resents his sister in law. He is unhappy about having 3 children, and doesn't seem to make any effort to be there for his children, and his main interest in his wife seems to be sex - but he doesn't put much effort into her feelings or being a good husband either. I've read that most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and Danny is certainly the poster child for this statement. He stumbles through life in rage and despair, but he never really makes an effort to improve his condition. In fact it doesn't make an effort for anything.
But little by little he realises the world is falling apart and some protective feelings do arise towards his family as they gather together and barricade a "safe room" as the government announcements have advised. Paranoia creeps in as no one knows who could turn next. Braving the streets to acquire groceries Danny witnesses a child beating her mother to death - who is next? It could be his father in law, his wife, his children even himself. No one can trust anyone and the fear takes over every aspect of life. So will Danny overcome his petty rage and insecurities and step up to defend his family - or will hatred consume him?
I can't say this was one of my favourite books. The most difficult part of reading this was the fact that I really did not like the main character, and most of this story is told through his eyes. I also was not fond of the many blips into other peoples lives - just to show how the violence has spread. This included a lot of graphic violence, which I don't particularly mind - but it rarely adds to the story in my opinion.
But despite the fact that I could not emphasize at all with the main character and found the ongoing descriptions of his selfishness a bit dull - there is something about this book that will stick with me. This book has very strong elements of ' us and them' mentality - something I see on a regular basis. It shows the strong relationship between fear and hate and how paranoia can lead to hatred - and in cases extreme violence. In a sense I think the events of this book happen every day - usually not to such an extreme - but every day we see violence which is born of both hatred and fear, and every so often it boils over into mass murder. Many of these killers feel justified for one reason or another, a feeling of "do unto others before they do unto you". Destroy any threat before it can destroy you, and yes I see this in real life quite frequently, and it's lesser companion of poke the monster to demonstrate your bravery - and then when it responds by poking back you have proof that it is evil and deserves to be destroyed.
This book never tells us what caused the plague that has descended upon humanity - it never tells us why some are affected and others untouched. It leaves us to draw our own conclusions and these are mine. I believe the plague only brought out what was already there. Those who let hate eat away at their lives are eventually consumed by it. There is certainly a lesson there for the rest of us. Hate is a cancer eating away at both individuals and society. Hate is a disease that destroys us. But as fear breeds hate - the survivors are drawn into more and desperate measures in an attempt to survive - will more of them turn - or will it just be a battle between the two original groups for whom there is no hope of coexistence. They can not live together - so they both must engage in slaughter until only one remains.
On the one hand - this book does make you think and it has some real lessons to be learnt through reading it. It certainly has a unique perspective and I'm really not certain if I will ever read the sequels. On the other hand - every twist was visible a mile away, nothing in the book surprised me in the least. I do like guessing which way things will work out in a story, and there was absolutely no guess work here, it was as easy to predict as forecasting rain in February for Britain or Ireland. I also feel a more likable main character would have improved the story. In short I feel the idea behind this book was brilliant - but the execution - less so. It did drag on at times, and I can't really say it was very entertaining at any point. But for all my complaining - I am still interested in seeing where the author takes this - it's very good premise, polished up a bit it could be great - I might still read another book in this series if I can find one cheap enough. I paid £2.49 used for this which I feel is fair enough, but I really would not go much higher. At £7.19 new I would have been terribly dissapointed.
I did enjoy the films "28 Days Later" and "I Am Legend", although they were mostly the stories of the people who had survived and you never really got to see the other side of things. Maybe it's the psychologist in me, or maybe I'm just a little twisted, but I always wanted to know a little more about what had happened to the supposed "infected" people to turn them into what they had become. In "Hater", David Moody manages to satisfy my curiosity, as well as tell a decent story.
Danny McCoyne is a very ordinary man, working a job he hates in the parking enforcement department of a local council and struggling to make ends meets with a wife and three children to look after. One day, on his way to work, he sees a man viciously attack and kill an old lady on the street for no apparent reason. The next evening, the guitarist of his favourite band goes mad on stage and attacks his band members and then he sees a fight in a pub that results in a football fan being stabbed to death right in front of him and his children.
At first, these look like random, if extreme, acts of violence. But the news channels start reporting more and more such incidents and Danny sees it happening all around him. At first he suspects that the media is encouraging copy cat incidents, but it soon becomes clear there is more to it than that. The Government seems powerless to do anything and Danny can't figure out what is going on, until suddenly he is afflicted and kills his father-in-law. From this point, we get a new point of view that neither of the films above provided, in seeing the cause and effect of this behaviour through the eyes of someone caught up in it.
I loved the pacing of the story, as the action starts very early on and the pace of the story remains high all the way through the story. Even in the more mundane moments of life, like when Danny is at home with the family or just waiting for the gig he attended to begin, you always know that something is about to happen and this kept me reading. Even these moments are written so that they pass by very quickly, never allowing the pace to drop.
I do believe that one of the things that helped make "Hater" so gripping is that I could identify completely with the main character. Danny McCoyne is a very average man, possibly with more children than some of us, but with a life most of us can identify with, at least in part. In my case, this was because I've actually a very similar job to his, so that struck a chord with me. He's not the kind of person who will suddenly change into a hero, being concerned with his family, hating his job and having much the same reactions to seeing events as many of us would; fear, confusion and disgust. I can't remember the last time I opened a book and saw someone who was so similar to me and that certainly helped drag me in.
Essentially, "Hater" is a slice of life where some strange things were happening. Being told by someone who is perfectly average helps, as the narrator then becomes any one of us. Because we're hearing McCoyne's voice, it's a story that's told simply and with a minimum of fuss. He doesn't know why things are happening and doesn't waste time with events except where they relate to him, either what's happened to him or what he's seen either in the street or on the news. This also helps make the story very readable, as it's simply written as well as fast paced. Even when Danny starts to be affected, he tells his story in the same way and it was a great insight into the emotional changes that he went through and how his view on life changed. Sadly, with McCoyne not being a psychologist, he didn't go as deeply into things as I might have liked, but it was still a different enough viewpoint on something like this to be fascinating.
The one disappointment I did find with the book was the ending, which didn't feel to be in keeping with the rest of the story. Admittedly, it was still told in the same fast-paced yet simple manner, but events took a turn for the less believable towards the end. It's as if Moody was looking for a big Hollywood ending to see if he could sell the film rights, although I understand the book was originally self-published, so I may well be wrong in this supposition. As it happens, the film rights have now been sold, but that ending did spoil things slightly for me and despite having enjoyed the book, I did finish it feeling slightly unsatisfied.
That alone doesn't make this a bad book by any means, however. It's a very enjoyable read, especially for someone who is a fan of "28 Days Later" or similar films. It's not something you'd want to read over again but, as I discovered, it's a wonderfully distracting way to spend a long train journey. With a cheapest price of £2.86 from the Amazon Marketplace, it would have to be a very dull train journey to be worth a purchase, but it's worth borrowing. The basic idea wasn't particularly new, but the viewpoint was different enough for it to be well worth a look.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk