Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover, 281 pages, $21.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
Rampant rage, termination of trust, and paralyzing paranoia are all components in a frenzied, febrile fiction created by David Moody. In his novel Hater, the world has gone malignantly mad. Seemingly normal people suddenly feel compelled to attack others with the intent to kill. The violence is motivated by fear; those who kill, or attempt the act, are driven by the notion that the person they must murder is a personal danger to them. This virulent virus of hate causes carnage on a grand scale. There is much detail of the devastation. The killers, labeled “Haters” by the media, are not delicate in their dispensation of death. That, in a nutshell, is the plot. To his great credit, author Moody manages to sustain the tension. It is a brilliant achievement to have a premise that is static in its nature move so well as a story. Hater is an exercise in maintaining mood and incrementally increasing interest by emphasizing the lethal anarchy itself. The reason it is occurring is secondary to surviving it.
The tale is told mostly from the point of view of a parking enforcement worker named Danny. Danny has seen his share of flared tempers and exasperation. None of this prepares him for the odd occurrences which slowly start to unfold around him. He sees a little old lady brutally beaten by a man in the street. At a rock concert, Danny witnesses more unprovoked violence; this time it is one band mate attacking another. When the realization literally hits home that it could happen to anyone: A beloved family member, a spouse, the neighbor upstairs; it leads to a revelation. Danny understands the division; it boils down to them versus us. Initially, this repulses him: “To stand and fight against them would mean displaying the same emotions as they do. It would be self-destructive. To fight back is to risk being called a Hater too. All we can do is keep to ourselves and not retaliate.”
Circumstances later prompt Danny to adopt a different stance. He embraces the “us” and “them” mentality, and becomes emotionally and physically empowered. His perception is radically altered, and he finds how absurdly easy it is to kill. It is no wonder that this book, which was first self published in 2006 without the benefit of an agent, attracted the attention of movie makers. Guillermo del Toro, and Mark Johnson (who produced The Chronicles of Narnia) bought the film rights. Esteemed director, J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) is helming the production. Compound all that with the knowledge that Hater is the first book in a trilogy, and it is obvious that David Moody is in a very enviable position. Hater is a fascinating book that ponders the potential for violence in each of us. It also is a timely treatise on how facile it is to separate, delineate, and alienate ourselves from one another. All it takes is fear.