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Monday, June 27, 2011

My Review of David Moody's "Dog Blood"

Before reading my review, please keep two things in mind:

1) This is a sequel to the novel "Hater" so the review will obviously be filled with spoilers. You can check out my "Hater" review here or go to the customer reviews on Amazon's product page.

2) As this is the second part of a trilogy, I will reserve my final judgement of the series until I finish the third book, "Them or Us." On to the review!

"Dog Blood" picks up more or less where "Hater" left off. The world is in chaos, all semblance of life as we know it has been erased and the fighting continues between the Haters and the Unchanged. Danny McCoyne is still searching for his daughter, Ellis, who he believes is a Hater like himself. He vowed to find her at the end of "Hater" and the majority of "Dog Blood" revolves around this objective.

While "Hater" allowed McCoyne's character to develop into the Hater that we know and love, "Dog Blood" takes us through his transition from the old world to the new world. Along the way he must once again make difficult choices and decide whether to hold on to the past or embrace this new future. As it was one of Moody's writing strengths in "Hater," the ambiguity of right and wrong is paramount in the sequel. Needless to say, McCoyne's myopic quest to find his daughter anchors his old world role as a father and family man, though all the Haters around him urge him to let the past (and his daughter) go. As with his decisions in "Hater," McCoyne follows his instincts, but rarely makes the right choice in "Dog Blood." Or perhaps, he at least makes some choice in a no-win situation.

Though McCoyne's quest is the heart of "Dog Blood," there is a side story as well. As Moody introduced random scenes of violence throughout "Hater" to show the degrading state of society, in "Dog Blood" he shows us the living conditions of the common people in the days of the war. They live in squalor, stuffed into overcrowded shelters and given meager rations by the army who protects them. These side chapters conjure the negative aspects of socialism, overpopulation and militaristic internment camps. Things are not going well for the Unchanged and the Haters know it.

While the Unchanged rely on their military might to see them through the war, Moody introduces different specialized classes of Haters in "Dog Blood." There are the normal Haters, who I call the "grunts," the everyman soldiers. Then there are the "Brutes," who Moody calls by name. They are seen too rarely, in my opinion, but are unstoppable killing machines that may even mistakenly kill their own kind in their bloodlust. Then there are the upper echelon of the Haters, those who can "hold their Hate." I call these the "brains," like the enigmatic man known as Sahota and, eventually, McCoyne himself. Lastly, there are the children, who Moody stresses throughout the book as the key to the Haters' victory. It's not until the last few chapters that we see how ruthless and relentless young Haters can really be.

"Dog Blood" is a worthy sequel to "Hater," though it does falter a bit in the middle book slump. Unchanged characters are introduced to serve as a reveal for easily the book's best surprise, but there is no payoff for becoming invested in these characters (though that will hopefully come in the final installment).

In my opinion, there were a few missed opportunities that I hope to see explored in "Them or Us." A lot of attention was paid to the deteriorating condition of the common people under this new regime, but I would have liked to have seen a contrast with some well-off people managing to secure a few niceties for themselves. Also, an Unchanged "hero" (or at least a right nasty piece of work), be he citizen or soldier that was more than just a faceless militant, someone to hold a mirror up to McCoyne. Oh, and as I already mentioned, I could have used another scene or two with the Brutes.

Overall, I think "Dog Blood" is an excellent successor to "Hater." The payoff in the end may not be what you'd expect, but if you've invested yourself in Danny McCoyne's story then I think you will be interested to see where he ends up. I have high hopes for "Them or Us" and I'm waiting for all Hell to break loose!


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