I came across David Moody's Hater at the library across the street from where I work. The area I work in is conservative and quiet and the library shelves are usually stocked with tea-room mysteries and financial advice books. Moody's book, with its lurid, blood-streaked cover, immediately caught my eye. I picked it up, saw it got a blurb from Guillermo Del Toro, and decided to give it a shot.
The book tells the story of an unknown virus that turn people into primal, homicidal maniacs. Set in London, the story follows a man and his family as they slowly degenerate over the course of the crisis. After the family is divided by infection we learn the extreme steps the authorities have taken to quell the plague and we see the beginning of war between infected and the mundane world.
This is the first book I've read from Moody, who has apparently made quite a career self publishing post-apocalyptic horror fiction. He sells the world and the slow escalation of civil discomfort well. Most of the book is told in first person, with occasional delightfully violent interludes showing us other awful things going on in the Haterverse.
Much of the book feels like a zombie story. There's the sudden inversion of normal society, the panicked search for supplies and safety, the paranoid distrust of each other, and the sudden outbreaks of violence and civil unrest. As I've harped on incessantly in the past, I believe that horror is often a metaphor for social anxiety and Hater works particularly good at exaggerating the horrors of domestic terrorism. In an interview with Graeme's Fantasy Book Review, Moody confirmed that terrorism was at the core of Hater:
I’d always had an idea for a story which involved the human race ‘splitting’. I wanted to examine the impact that would have if people were forced to take a side, rather than choosing to. Originally, I’d planned for half of the population to become physically repulsive to the other! But then, in July 2005, I saw footage of the London suicide bombers which chilled me to the core. Incredibly, one of them was a classroom assistant in a primary school. I couldn’t believe how someone could have such a positive, important and trustworthy job, and then, literally days later, be on the Underground with a bomb strapped to their back, ready to kill as many people as possible. Those two themes combined were really the genesis of Hater.
As a tale of the fears of our neighbors suddenly doing us harm, Hater works remarkably well. It also stands out in characterization. One of the big things I took away from the book was my ambivalence toward the lead character. The protagonist, a family man trapped in a dead-end job, is pretty much a hater even before the plague takes over. He's petty, passive-aggressive, and simmers with barely contained rage at the people around him. His family, a bunch of chav-vy yobs, aren't any better. They read like the redneck family you stand behind in line at Target, the ones who are cussing at each other and are probably just an inch away from murdering each other. For a story about the destructive power of rage, this was an effective perspective to use, but I can't say I had a lot of fun hanging out with the guy.
Hater is definitely worth checking out. It ain't a happy story, but it touches a lot of buttons, both in terms of its War on Terror motifs and its disturbing take on domestic life. Take a gander at the author's blog here. As for me, I'm definitely checking out the next book in the Hater series, Dog Blood.