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Friday, February 6, 2009

“Hater” by David Moody (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official David Moody Website
Order “Hater
Read Reviews via SF Signal

AUTHOR INFORMATION: David Moody’s debut novel, “Straight to You”, was first published in 1996 by a small UK publisher. In 2005 Moody formed Infected Books—his own publishing house through which he independently published his books including the popular Autumn series and “Hater” (2006), film rights to which both were sold, the latter acquired by director/producer Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy 1 & 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Hobbit) with Mark Johnson (The Chronicles of Narnia) producing and J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) directing. In 2007/2008, “Hater”, its two planned sequels, and the Autumn series were acquired for publication by Thomas Dunne Books.

ABOUT HATER: A man stops in fear and terror in a city crowd and suddenly lunges at a complete stranger, stabbing her to death with the end of his umbrella. A teenage girl stares at her best friend in frightened loathing and without warning, kills her. Seemingly without provocation a man strangles his wife of more than thirty years, with his bathrobe sash. Called “Haters” by the media, these attackers strike without warning in an escalating crescendo of inexplicable violence. In seconds, rational, normal people become remorseless killers. Anyone—or everyone— can become a victim—or a Hater.

When mortal terror roams abroad—what happens to a society? When neighbor fears neighbor, when no one knows whether he may be killed or become a killer—who is safe? And who can be trusted?

In the tradition of H.G. Wells and Richard Matheson, this is one man’s story of his place in a world gone mad—a world infected with fear, violence and HATE…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 288 pages divided over 44 chapters and seven short interludes which all take place within the book’s first 150 pages. The interludes are narrated from seven different third-person POVs of characters who are directly involved in ‘Hater’ incidents. The rest of the novel is narrated in the first-person via the protagonist Danny McCoyne. The story occurs over the course of ten days—from Thursday to Sunday—and ends on an unresolved note. “Hater” is book one of a trilogy with the sequel, “Dog Blood”, expected out in 2010.

February 17, 2009 marks the US Hardcover publication of “Hater” via
Thomas Dunne Books. The UK version (see inset) will be released on February 19, 2009 via Gollancz.

ANALYSIS: David Moody’sHater” seemed to have all the makings of a book that I would thoroughly love. I mean the hype was there—including a ringing endorsement by brilliant filmmaker
Guillermo del Toro who is adapting the book into a movie—the premise was intriguing, and I’m a sucker for feel-good underdog stories like what the author went through in getting his novel published. Yet despite all of that—or perhaps because of it—“Hater” was a minor disappointment . . . at least for the first three-quarters of the book…

The biggest problem with “Hater” for the first three quarters of the book is that it’s so conventional. Basically, if you’ve read or seen any kind of apocalyptic / zombie / virus / plague book or movie before—including but not limited to George A. Romero’s Living Dead series, 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, The Day of the Triffids, The Stand, etc.—then you pretty much already know what to expect from the first three quarters of “Hater”. Which in this case includes a normal society suddenly descending into a world of madness, paranoia and fear as people turn on one another in shocking moments of violence. Perhaps in 2006, I wouldn’t have found the first three quarters of “Hater” to be so predictable, but after having watched
The Signal (which has a similar concept), Right At Your Door, Cloverfield, The Happening and reading Scott Sigler’sInfected”—all in the past year—I just thought the first three quarters of the book was mostly boring.

Fortunately it’s not all bad. For one, I loved the earnest and believable narrative voice of the protagonist Danny McCoyne who comes across as an average person—someone real, someone readers can really relate to:

I know I’m a lazy bastard. I know I should try harder but I just can’t be bothered. I’m not stupid but I sometimes find it difficult to give a shit. I should have run across Millennium Square to get to the office just now but it was too much effort so early in the morning. I walked and I finally got here just after a quarter past nine. I tried to sneak in but it was inevitable that someone was going to see me. It had to be Tina Murray though, didn’t it? My sour-faced, slave-driving, unforgiving bitch of a supervisor. She’s standing behind me now, watching me work. She thinks I don’t know she’s there. I really can’t stand her. In fact I can’t think of anyone I like less than Tina. I’m not a violent man—I don’t like confrontation and I find the very idea of punching a woman offensive—but there are times here when I’d happily smack her in the mouth.

Additionally, David does a superb job of capturing the tediousness of everyday life—working a day job, marriage, raising kids, in-laws, financial problems, et cetera—as well as building suspense and evoking paranoia; even if it does follows a predictable path in doing so.

It’s when the book reaches its three-quarters point, around 200 pages in, that “Hater” becomes something special. In a nutshell—Minor SPOILERS HERE!!!Danny McCoyne becomes a ‘Hater’, which instantly opens up a whole new realm of fresh possibilities. Of most interest here is how the Haters can instantly recognize the difference between them and ‘us’; viewing the thought processes behind their actions; learning a little about what separates Haters from everyone else, and discovering first-hand through Danny’s eyes the government’s ‘solution’ to the Hater epidemic. In short, “Hater’s” excellent conclusion more than made up for the book’s conventional start, leaving me feeling pretty damn excited about the sequels…


Thea said...

This book looks fantastic, and I hadn't heard a thing about it prior to your review! I'm glad the ending and writing were enough to keep you interested--and hey, I love conventional apocalyptic stories. I'm in.

Thanks, I'll make sure to keep an eye out for HATER :)

Robert said...

You're welcome Thea! Just because I found parts of the novel conventional, doesn't mean that others will though :) All I can say is read it and judge for yourself...

Anonymous said...

This has been killing me ever since i started reading there any connection between Hater and the movie "The Signal"???

Anonymous said...


Parts of this novel were pretty good. But ultimately I was let down by it. To be honest, it would have made a great series of short stories, and will likely make a good movie.

But that's what it felt like: a short story, with tedious repetitive inner dialogue used to expand the book to the minimum length required for a novel.

I found myself unnerved by Danny's reaction to everything prior to his change being, "Oh goodness, did that actually happen? I'm shocked."

And three quarters through the book, I was happy to find that the character changed. It was the most-daring choice to make of course, even if it was telegraphed. However, I was let down to find that Danny had become so one-dimensional. This instinct that took over Danny made sense, only it was described again and again. Same with his longing to be with his daughter. While I understand that a parent should constantly be worried about their child, I believe that the constant statement of it ultimately dragged the pace.

I appreciated your review of the book. Thanks for putting it out there! :)


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