THEM OR US by David Moody

Thomas Dunne Books
Publication date: November 8, 2011
Them or Us is the final book in David Moody’s “Hater” trilogy. Now, let me make this clear: This is not a zombie novel. Yes, it is apocalyptic and brutal in nature, but not – I repeat, not a zombie novel.

We have to go back for a moment and let me catch you up so you know where we’re at. In the first book, Hater, you meet Danny McCoyne, an early 30’s office worker with a wife and children. Living in London, McCoyne struggles as we all do day to day to make ends meet for his family. While on his way to work one morning, McCoyne witnesses an act of violence that is a signal of the outbreak of a new disease. Called “Hate” it affects people in one way: if you are a “hater” you will suddenly look around and believe that if you don’t kill everyone else around you that is unchanged, that they will kill you. Now take the world’s population, make half of them “haters” and leave the other half unchanged, shake in a tall glass and then watch the blood flow. The first book shows the opening shots of a new war. You watch society begin to crumble as the world begins to tear itself apart. McCoyne and his family attempt to live through this but things don’t end well for them.
In the second book, Dogblood, the war is on. The countryside is on fire, cities are armed camps of the Unchanged, living bunker-style while foraging for supplies and bracing against attacks by the Haters. McCoyne is part of the Hater Army living out in the badlands fighting with blade and blunt object, all the while searching for his youngest daughter, who is also a Hater. Through events at the end of the first book, she was taken from him and all that he can think about is getting her back. Dogblood clearly illustrates a civil war unlike anything ever written before.

In the third and final book of the trilogy, Them or Us, the world has gone to shit. Nuclear bombs have poisoned half the land with fallout, making it uninhabitable. Cities that aren’t radioactive have been picked apart by scavengers and stand as empty shells. The world is dust and ashes and there aren’t many people left. The Haters have all but won the war. In between scavenging for supplies, they spend their time seeking out the last of the Unchanged. McCoyne is still alive, but just barely. He is, for all intents and purposes, the walking dead. He is ravaged by what we know, and he clearly knows, is cancer due to radiation poisoning. At the end of Dogblood, McCoyne discovered that he was able to “hold the Hate” meaning he could convince the Unchanged that he was like them, in order to trap them. Because of this gift, McCoyne has been able to survive by making himself useful to whatever sociopath survived long enough to lead whatever blood-soaked army he comes across. McCoyne knows the game is just about over. Not just for him, but for everybody. He knows there are no more cities on the map to scavenge for supplies and no places left to go that aren’t soaked in radiation. The last of the sociopaths is in charge, and it has all come down to the events of Them or Us.

This is one of the rare trilogies that gives you the story from beginning to end, across all three books, tightly. Moody perfectly planned and executed an apocalyptic story. The fact it is not a zombie novel makes it all the better. In many trilogies, you have high points and low points and a general unraveling of seams throughout the story. There are no loose seams in the Hater Trilogy. These books contain one of the most brilliantly depicted destructions of society that I’ve ever read. You cannot pick up Them or Us and read it first. Just don’t do it – it’s not worth it if you haven’t read the other two books. It’s a hard book to review because of what it is – the third book in a trilogy. If you’re not willing to go back and read the first two books, just don’t bother. Them or Us will not carry the same weight as a standalone as it does closing out the trilogy.

Dave Wahlman