Review written by Jess Peacock
You have undoubtedly seen the faces and stories: The mother who suddenly drowns her two children in the bathtub. The dedicated father who shoots his family before turning the gun on himself. We ask how such seemingly well-adjusted people could suddenly turn so violent and so heinous as to brutally murder those they hold most dear? We reassure ourselves that we could never harm the ones we love, that we are above such societal aberrations. What would happen to our world, however, if half of the population did exactly that?
Hater, written by David Moody, throws society into a chaotic tailspin after violent assaults by ordinary citizens, tagged Haters by the media, skyrocket. No rhyme or reason can explain who will suddenly attack, or who the victims will be. Before long, nobody can be trusted, and civil unrest quickly spreads in a riveting tale that is part 28 Days Later, part The Crazies.
Moody personalizes the rapidly deepening paranoia by primarily focusing on the first person narration of Danny McCoyne, an everyday schlub struggling to support his young family with a monotonous, low paying city job (his daily routine is only slightly less horrific than the Haters). As the violent attacks spread, McCoyne holes up inside his home with one eye on the frustratingly vague news reports and the other on every potentially suspicious action of his wife, kids, and father-in-law.
The looming division within McCoyne’s family is reflected in society at large. From gays vs. straights, liberals vs. conservatives, and religious fundamentalists vs. everyone else, we are growing increasingly wary and antagonistic of anyone who does not think exactly as we do. Moody simply upgrades these ideological clashes into physical attacks, highlighting the danger society is faced with when nuance and empathy are exchanged for a strict black and white, us versus them worldview.
While based in the U.K., Hater has presciently tapped into the current political and cultural zeitgeist in the United States. Abhorrent rhetoric, while always existing in American society, has reached a critical mass coupled with mainstream legitimacy as of late. While aggressive lines have already been drawn symbolically in our culture, one must wonder how long we can keep the logical next step at bay.
Without spoiling the fun, it must be noted that Hater takes a sudden sharp turn part way through the novel, forcing the reader back on his heels and elevating the story from clever horror fare to an ingenious psychological and spiritual metaphor. However, at the risk of leaving too many clues, a deeper discussion on the importance of the twist will have to wait for the upcoming Dog Blood (book two) review.
While the journey of Hater from self-published phenomenon to pet production project of genre powerhouse Guillermo del Toro could easily outshine the power of the story, Moody has managed to invest in his novel a message of modern importance that should continue to resonate for years.