By David Moody
True to my new year's resolution, I have finally read the second book in one of the series I have started over the past three years. Believe me, I'm feeling pretty emboldened right about now. So much so that I also installed a towel rack in the bathroom and walked the dogs. I'm getting shit done today! Don't even try and slow me down!
So, anyway, yeah....
Dog Blood is the second book in the Hater series by David Moody. I read the first book, Hater, last year and enjoyed the hell out of it. I think Moody's approach to the widening modern zombie canon is both refreshing and innovative in that he broadens the scope enough to see out the entire arc of the zombie apocalypse by making his zombies rational, thinking killers rather than the classic brain-eating drone. The result is a novel that is so relentless, so uncompromising that I actually finished it in one sitting... a rare feat. For a longer and more in depth take on the first book in Moody's neo-zombie trilogy go check out my blog post on Hater.
Dog Blood wasn't quit so relentless. It couldn't possibly be. Whereas Hater chronicles the first days of the war between the Haters and the Unchanged, Dog Blood takes us into the endless war of attrition that has settled over the planet. That sense of panic that Moody portrayed so well in the first book is replaced by an all-pervasive fear. A remorseless fear of what may (or may not) be coming. The first half of the novel is a bit slow (plodding at times). Characters drift in and out of the narrative as they interact with Danny, the main character (and Hater) who, by nature, has very little affinity for anyone or anything aside from killing and finding his five-year old daughter. But the slower bits at the front end lull the reader into the false sense of security that everything is going to even out. Right before Moody blows everything out of the water once again.
Once things pick up about two thirds of the way through the novel, Dog Blood is every bit and graphic and gory as Hater, often more so. Moody has a wonderfully sick and twisted mind, especially when it comes to his portrayal of children. There are some scenes in this novel that will spawn nightmares for me over the next few weeks and most of them will involved kids. Yikes!
I would have liked to see some more inventing murder scenes. I mean, if you are committed to writing such a graphic novel, It would be cool to see Moody get imaginative the ways Danny and Ellie kill people. Alas, it's a small complaint. with or without novel kill scenes, the smell of rotten viscera practically emanates from the last pages of the book. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
The reason for the onset of the Hate, as it is called, is still not explained, but that's okay. Given that the entire book is a chronicle of the utter chaos unleashed on humanity one doesn't expect to get clinical answers as to why. The characters don't know (and at this point will never know) and so the readers are left i the dark as well. As it should be with zombie stories. In a true catastrophe nobody would have time to find the answers. Nobody would even bother asking. It's simple all action, all the time.
While I usually demand interesting characters, with zombie literature I don't, mainly because character studies and zombies don't mix. Zombies don't have character and they spend their time killing the people that do, so best not get attached to any particular character. In Dog Blood the characters are as two-dimensional as they need to be given that the world is a place where life means less than a truck full of dead rats. Who's got time for character study when you know they'll be dead in a paragraph or two anyway.
In fact, life is so cheap in Moody's world that the entire trilogy thus far feels like a prequel to Cormac McCarthy's The Road. McCarthy never explains how the world in his novel because such a bleak, unforgiving landscape of torment and death, but one doesn't have to look further than Moody for a possibility (I know, I know... there's no way that The Road involved zombies in any sort of incarnation, and comparing the two books feels kind of funny, but the mood definitely exists). There is a real feeling of impending desolation and hopelessness in the series and I can't imagine Moody is setting us up for a happy ending and I'd be disappointed if he somehow provided one. One can almost see the end of the trilogy: Danny desperately walking along the road toward the ocean with his little girl. The parallels are creepy.
While not quite as good as the Hater, Dog Blood is the necessary sequel and does exactly what is needed to bridge the gap between the the onset of the neo-zombie apocalypse and its conclusion. Some questions have been answered but not nearly enough to satisfy the reader and there's enough gore pack in there to make George Romero uneasy and Moody finishes Dog Blood in absolutely spectacular fashion (one wonders if he takes lessons from Steig Larsson). Like the weight of the pulsing zombie horde, it will be virtually impossible to hold off reading the third book for very long.
Since I'm already motivated, I'm gonna go board up the windows, and start the final novel. This dude needs some closure.