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REVIEW: Dog Blood by David Moody

REVIEW SUMMARY: An outstanding apocalyptic novel.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Danny McCoyne tries to find his daughter while mankind engages in a war between violent Haters and the Unchanged.

PROS: A meaty spin on the apocalypse theme; compelling setting and plot; smooth writing style made for easy consumption; engrossing story and personal point of view make for some powerful passages near the end.
CONS: Danny’s “indoctrination” sequence slowed the pace to a small-but-noticeable degree.
BOTTOM LINE: A sequel that surpasses the original.

David Moody’s fast-paced apocalyptic thriller Dog Blood, the sequel to 2008’s Hater, continues the story of a division of mankind from which there is no turning back. Sudden outbreaks of extreme violence have marked “the change” – the emergence of a division amongst humanity with the “Unchanged” on one side and “Haters” on the other. Haters are genetically predisposed to attack and kill the Unchanged – suddenly and without remorse.

Dog Blood picks up a few months after Hater. The change itself is largely over. Since the cause is genetic, it’s not contagious, but virtually overnight, mankind has been divided into two races suddenly at war. This division is central to the story and there is a palpable feeling of “Us vs. Them” throughout the novel. Ironically, the change has eliminated the notions of equality and diversity as those terms were previously defined. There are no more racial differences, no more religious differences; the only thing that matters is whether or not you are a Hater.

But here’s the thing: Haters can sense each other so they know whom to kill. But the Unchanged can only detect Haters through acts of violence, and even then there are false positives. So the Unchanged live huddled together in a state of constant fear and paranoia. The Haters, meanwhile, roam the outskirts of the cities and see the Unchanged as the sick ones. Things get even more interesting from there: a new breed of Haters called “Brutes” have emerged. Brutes are Haters in the extreme, attacking without thinking. “Normal” Haters know to back off when the odds are against them, but Brutes simply don’t care as they are consumed by uncontrollable rage.

This frightening apocalyptic landscape is exposed to the reader through Danny McCoyne, the central character who is motivated and torn by his inhuman hate and his human desire to find his Hater daughter. Danny’s plight doesn’t quite make him a likable character – he’s still a cold-blooded killer, after all – but it does make him an incredibly illustrative character. Through Danny we can clearly see that there is a new world order shifting into existence.

As noted in the book by one of the characters, the setting is somewhat similar to a zombie scenario. In fact, reading Dog Blood feels like reading a zombie novel, but with several crucial differences. For one thing, the Haters aren’t undead, just genetically compelled to kill. They don’t eat brains, though they have no qualms about smashing skulls. And, as noted above, the condition is not contagious. But that struggle to survive against impossible odds is there, even if it’s mostly seen from the point of view of one of “them”. In fact, Moody goes one level better: this division can be seen as social commentary on violence and terrorism, or, if not commentary, then at least thoughtful metaphor.

And here is where Dog Blood outshines its worthy predecessor. Whereas Hater was a thriller wrapped in a mainstream overcoat (out of proper introduction to the premise, I’m now sure), Dog Blood embraces its speculative themes with a vice-like grip. And while the sequel still describes acts of extreme violence, it uses them to better effect. They don’t come across as passages designed to shock, as they did in the interstitials of Hater. For these reasons, Dog Blood is a sequel that surpasses the original.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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