Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover, 336 pages, $23.99
Review by Sheila Merritt
“Kill them, honey.” Not typical words for a parent to utter to a child. Dog Blood, however, is not a typical book. In this sequel to the superbly disturbing Hater, David Moody defies the norm. Using mostly first person narrative, Moody cunningly constructs compassion towards characters who are innately unsympathetic. Concern about the welfare of people whose cardinal cause is maniacal murder is a tough sell, but the author is startlingly adept at maneuvering points of view. He penetrates the psyche of his protagonist, allowing the demented to have depth.
Danny McCoyne is a Hater. He hates The Unchanged; beings who don’t share his overwhelming desire to savagely kill others. The Unchanged, in self-defense, have mobilized. This fuels Hater rage, giving them a rationalization for their conduct; self defense has come into play, it feeds a need to unite. Danny worries about the fate of his young Hater daughter, the only member of his family that is like him; he wants to protect her from the enemy. During the odyssey to find her, he faces mind bending manipulation and the horrible reality of the war’s ramifications.
Depicting a society in tatters, Moody employs intensely harrowing images of an apocalypse: “Rats and other vermin scavenge through the mountain of garbage in broad daylight, suddenly cocksure and confident, no longer afraid of man. Birds peck at bodies, and there’s a steady trickle of stagnant, foul-smelling water running away from the huge decaying mound. It pools in the gutter and spreads out into the road, the street drains blocked. It’s become a black lake, the gentle breeze making its surface ripple, floating bits of rubbish bumping around like odd-shaped boats.”
The novel features figures driven by a passion for carnage. The ultimate executor of such an appetite is Ellis: Danny’s five year old daughter. A pint sized killing machine, she even gives her proud papa some pause. Like Lord of the Flies on hallucinogenics, the kid personifies the nightmare of the out of control youngster. No matter how often the mantra “She’s my child” gets recited, this is progeny who tests the boundaries of parenting.
With Dog Blood, David Moody solidifies his grasp on a world gone amuck. He finely focuses on the plight of one character’s reactions to a very different universe, and is cagey and canny in his applications of symbolism and allegory. He plucks the heart of conflict and wrenches out a profoundly emotional study of unstable alliances.