By David Moody
These days, it is rare that I finish a book in a single sitting. The conditions required for such an event (readable book + large, uninterrupted chunks of time) are not easy to come by. I'm a busier man and a more jaded reader than I was when I read Johnny Got His Gun in a single six hour sitting at the age of sixteen (or A Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy hours before a final exam in first year university). In fact, I haven't read many books in a single sitting. This probably has a lot to do with why I can't sit still for movies, either.
As it turns out the conditions necessary for a single-day read were ideal yesterday. We were having some screen doors and windows installed at our house and, in true Taiwanese fashion, the workers told us they would come by sometimes between 8am and 4pm. Typical.
I cleared my Monday schedule (Monday is actually a light day for me, anyhow) in anticipation for the long wait and picked up Hater by David Moody. It's been on my shelf for a few months. It was given to my by a friend who never really endorsed it or recommended it, just handed it over and told me I might like it. I didn't much like the cover and I hadn't bothered to find anything out about it so I always managed to pick something else up in the meantime. By yesterday it had become a festering sore on my bookshelf. It had been there so long it was actually offending me. So I opened the damned thing figuring I could read it and get it on its way.
Little did I know.
Oh boy, was this book right up my alley. By page 25 I knew I was in for one of those days. Everything was going to come second. Lunch? It could wait. Walk the dogs? They don't really need it. Let the workers in? OK, I did that... at 3pm. On any other day I would have been livid, but since I was neck deep in Hater, I barely noticed. In fact I barely noticed when the workers left and my teaching hours were approaching. I was almost late for work, not that it mattered, I was going to find a way to continue reading at work, anyway. Nothing, but nothing was going to stand in the way of me and the last page of this book, which i reached by 10pm, following my usual Monday teaching schedule.
What, by god, could this book be about that would send a grown man diving for sofas and scuttling into corners in order to read a couple more pages? Essentially, Hater follows the classic storyline of a burgeoning zombie apocalypse. Unassuming man with crappy life starts to vaguely notice strange occurances happening all around him, most of which involve gorily inventive deaths of random strangers. Soon, these arbitrary attacks are happening with more frequency and they begin to close themselves in around the central character. People seem to be transforming from mild-mannered citizens into blood-thirsty killers at a rate far too rapid for authorities to handle. The situation declines at an exponential rate. The attacks are all over the news, while the news continues to broadcast, and what was, at first, a breaking news story has transformed itself into total societal collapse. Awesome!
But it's not zombies.
This is where Hater takes the twist it desperately needed to take. Had this been yet another book about the zombie hordes, it would have taken a miracle for it to follow through. As much as I like the zombie genre, its scope is limited and there are only so many directions you can go with mindless, fleash-eating drones. Max Brooks did a stellar job of re-inventing the genre a few years back with World War Z but David Moody was taking us zombie freaks on a ride in an entirely new, and more intelligent direction.
Zombies, by nature, are interesting insofar as they take the world by surprise and in large numbers. But once the collapse of the establisment is complete and the zombies cease to be a surprise to those who remain living, it is hard to maintain story momentum. Ask Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead. Trying to write a serial comic about a post-apocalyptic world over-run by zombies can get difficult and writers are forced to rely heavily on human relationships under stress, since deconstructing the zombie mind would be an exercise in hilarious futility.
The genre has been in need of a major overhaul for years and David Moody has taken the zombie theme in an interesting new direction that enables him to transcend the authoratarian style and write within the post-apocalyptic world with a lot more freedom than traditional zombie writers. He will be able to move from one side to the other with ease and expand on the ideas and theories he has brought to life in Hater.
I can't really say much more than that without ruining the book and the overall storyline going into book two. It is, after all, the first in a trilogy and going ahead and spoiling the first reveal would be a literary crime. Rest assured that this long-time zombie fan and sci-fi freak spent every page of this book riveted. Moody maintains the suspense right up to the last sentence, reveals enough to leave the reader satisfied but leaves enough questions unanswered to ensure I read the next book. Naturally, that's the aim of writing the first novel in a trilogy, but it's surprising how may authors are incapable of pulling that off.
Must make a mental note to add Dog Blood, the second book in the trilogy to my Amazon wish-list. If it is even half what Hater was, I will be losing another day in the coming months.