Hater (Hater #1) by David Moody

The world has gone mad.

A strange and sudden increase in the number of violent assaults on individuals has rocked society. The assaults are brutal and extreme; within mere seconds, normally rational people become frenzied killers. They strike without warning and kill all who cross their path. Christened ‘Haters’ by the media, there are no links between those who attack and those who are attacked.

Danny McCoyne is one such man. An average working class man, he must contend with this new world of terror. Eventually, his only choice is seek shelter, secure his family, and watch as the world outside crumbles. But when any person has the potential to become a Hater; when McCoyne locks the door, is he shutting the danger out or locking it in?

Hater is a unique novel with an interesting premise. That, sadly, is about all I can give it.

I am guessing that we, the readers, are supposed to somehow empathize with the main character Danny McCoyne. As the novel is told from his point of view, this would make sense. We connect with him in some way, and through his eyes we see the story unfold. A good idea, if only Danny weren’t such an immensely unlikable individual.

I do not want to mince words, dear reader, so I will be blunt and say Danny McCoyne is a schlub. In his own words he admits to being “a lazy bastard”, and “I know I should try harder but I just can’t be bothered.” He admits to being bounced from department to department in the three and a half years he has been with his job. He refers to his supervisor as “…sour-faced, slave-driving, unforgiving bitch…”. He either yells at or ignores his children, at times he ignores his wife. In general he is a very self centered man, caring only about himself and how unfolding events affect him.

Looking past the main character, which admittedly is difficult to do, the actual premise is an interesting one. An unknown illness, passed from person to person by unknown means, is turning ordinary people in to rampaging killers. The afflicted person suddenly and without warning becomes ultra violent, attacking whomever is near – be they a stranger or a loved one. Those who are not accosted by the ill individual describe the person’s expression as one of great fear. This is a likely explanation for the suddenness of the attacks; if the person is struck by an overwhelming fear then they are likely to lash out.

Throughout the story small hints as to the illness’ origin are dropped. Some believe it to be a kind of government experiment gone awry and the few clues given seem to point in that direction. We are of course not given the answer just yet as this is only the first part of the story. I am sure the cause behind the epidemic will be revealed in subsequent books.

As I said above, Hater is a book with a unique take on the whole “zombie” epidemic. The execution however is poor. If one can get over how irritating the main character is, they could very well enjoy this book. Pick this one up with that in mind if you feel brave.

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The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden

Cast out by her village as a witch, the now orphaned Vasya’s options are pitifully few. She can either dedicate herself to a life in a convent or allow her older sister to find her a match with a wealthy Moscovite prince. Either option would mean a life secluded, locked in a tower and far away from the vast world she longs to explore.

Vasya decides to go with the third option – disguise herself as a boy and ride off on her beloved horse Solovey. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, Vasya quickly finds herself in over her head. She must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces – and to remain alive – even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from without and from within.

Picking up shortly after from where The Bear and the Nightingale left off, The Girl in the Tower continues the story of young Vasilisa. Not wanting to be wed to some man she has never met and not wanting to dedicate her life to the Lord like her brother, she has decided to create her own path and see the world beyond the forests she knows. Unfortunately for her, things do not go well and she must again rely on the help of the frost demon Morozko. His initial reluctance to help her causes Vasya to believe that he does not care, but it soon becomes evident – especially as the novel goes on – that perhaps he cares too much.

Much like with the first novel, Arden continues her strong story telling with this second one. The research she has done clearly shows as the world she builds teems with life. Yes, some of the characters are based on real people, yet it is through her words that these individuals come to life. We are given insights in to them; their hopes and their fears. It is obvious that even then the concern over one’s family was important.

Unlike the first novel, however, there is not as much of the mystical element present. Vasya has only a few meetings with the various spirits, much less than what she had in her father’s home. Some of the meetings do hint at future dealings and so it will be interesting to see how Arden continues this particular thread.

I enjoyed reading The Girl in the Tower, the second book in the Winternight Trilogy. It continues the story in a satisfactory manner, having the characters grow and mature in a believable way. I am curious to see how everything is resolved and will be looking forward to the third and final book in the series.