Thursday, November 17, 2011

Them or Us and Playing Both Sides: A Book Review

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*full disclosure: a paperback copy of this novel was provided by Thomas Dunne Books.

Author: David Moody.

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books.

Them or Us is the final book in a trilogy that began with Hater (2010) followed by Dog Blood in 2010. This is David Moody's eleventh book and each novel in the Hater series has dealt with an outbreak of an invisible ever spreading virus. The first novel allowed the virus to spread through the air as those infected with the "hate" turned on family members, friends or a neighbour. In Dog Blood, the so-called "Haters," who have been infected with the virus face the "Unchanged," or those immune. As well, Dog Blood amps up the warfare as these two forces face each other on the battlefield which almost leads to nuclear annihilation for the entire United Kingdom. In all of this, the protagonist Danny McCoyne has found a way to harness his "hate," which makes him a valuable tool for the Haters but a harbinger of death for the Unchanged. Danny is able to get close to those uninfected until the Haters follow armed to the teeth. This latest novel was released by Thomas Dunne in book form November 8th and despite all the manipulation, desperation and suffering in this final novel, there is some great fiction housed within and possibly even a little hope.

Danny McCoyne is back doing what he does best, tracking down the uninfected. Those managing to survive nuclear strikes on Glasgow, London and other cities are now sprawled out across the irradiated landscape. Their final moments are coming soon. The Haters now operate from the few cities still remaining with Hinchliffe, a despot, running one of the Hater camps. He uses Danny to search out those uninfected so that they can be murdered as the hate turns those infected into aggressive and unstoppable beasts. Only Danny and another named Peter Sutton can hold the hate and Peter acts as a transition with Danny turning away from the Haters in favour of the Unchanged. Are you confused yet? There is a lot of ground to cover here to bring fiction fans up to speed. Let us just say, that Danny has found something outside of murder and mayhem after becoming infected; he has found hope thanks to Peter's tutelage.

This reviewer would like to put aside the downturns in the novel early to move on to the more thrilling parts of Them or Us. There is a little repetition, understandably, in this third novel as Danny is again doing what he does best, tricking the Unchanged into believing he is one of them. Thankfully, only the opening sequences deal with Danny performing his same business in this latest novel. Also, Danny's antagonist, Hinchcliffe, is also a mite of bore as he drones on and argues with Danny over the UK and possibly the World's future in the final chapters only. This arguing and counterarguing: "we're all focused on the kill, but not you (Danny)," (323) continues for far too long. Hinchcliffe is a despot similar to Gaddafi but with fewer social programs and Hinchcliffe has so many chances to eliminate Danny that he passes on unbelievably. Yet, he chooses to let Danny live again and again even when Danny has betrayed him over and over. You know the final confrontation is coming between these two important characters, but it takes a little too long to get there.

That aside, the Hater series is important for looking at violence and mankind's propensity for violence in the face of difficult situations. The Haters represent unbridled aggression and violence while Danny is in between the Unchanged and the Haters. Loved by none and used by many, Danny is an outsider to both groups while he searches for a way out of all the bloodshed. A pawn at some points in the novel and a tool of diplomacy in others, Danny is always playing both sides of the fence while trying to find a way to end all of this violence.

And that end to the violence only comes in the conclusion of the novel when Danny's own life is at an end. Perhaps motivated by a need to leave behind something of significance, Danny finally turns away from some of his cowardly ways. Instead, he stands up for something he believes in, which, strangely, leads to even more violence. The final scene of the book hints at more aggression and hostility as if Danny's purpose has been for naught. So, there is no real resolution to the Hater series only more questioning, which makes Them or Us an excellent read that requires the reader's attention and perspective on all the events taking place.

This is a great novel for fans of fiction. The events in the novel take place under dire situations including a mad doctor who likes to torment children; however Moody seems to be questioning aggression, violence and humankind's selfishness in this novel to some pretty dramatic effect. But this is also fiction, so Moody may have simply dramatized humankind's beast-like nature. Also, there is more warfare in this novel but there is also a softer Danny who is tired of all the battling. This ends the trilogy with a final gentle note of hope for Danny but possibly for readers too. Find this one in bookstores now and prepare for an exciting and complex time spent with one of the best anti-heroes in literature who is comparable to The Road Warrior or a Snake Pliskin from film fame.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10 (the final message is convoluted and requires perspective, the characters are mostly believable and flawed, there is plenty of exciting action and double-dealings).

Them or Us at David Moody's website:

Them or Us Plot Details

A second review of this title at Bloody Disgusting (Ryan Daley):

Them or Us Reviewed at BD

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