The novel “Hater” by David Moody was published for the first time in 2006. It’s the first book of the “Hater” trilogy.
Danny McCoyne is a common civil servant who doesn’t like his job but has a family to support because he and his partner had three children in a few years so there’s never enough money. However for Danny going home after work isn’t an occasionn to relax because his partner always has something to complain about and their children are always bickering.
One day, while going to work, Danny sees a man violently attack an old woman. It’s only the first of a long series of acts of violence which increase in the following days. In a growing number of cases, suddenly, for no apparent reason, a person tries to kill someone, sometimes a relative, sometimes a stranger. These people are called “Haters” and the situation becomes more and more dangerous because noone is safe even at home with their loved ones.
“Hater” has been called a zombies novel without zombies and has some points in common with the movie “28 Days Later”. It’s a contemporary urban horror story although eventually a rational explanation for the existence of “Haters” is given so it could be considered science fiction. Trying to set the novel against precise labels is however just an exercise in futility because it’s a story based on emotions so an excessive rational analysis ends up diminishing its reading.
“Hater” begins in an almost trivial way because if it weren’t for the description of the first attack the protagonist witnesses, only Danny McCoyne’s common life with its problems would remain. The story has deep roots in today’s normal life with its various sources of stress and it’s not accidental that the novel is narrated in first person from Danny’s point of view.
The idea is to allow the reader to at least partially identify with the protagonist because especially in recent years most people are under stress because of their problems at work and / or those in the family. Actually the constant Danny’s complaints against everything and everyone can even become annoying but it’s the flip side of a story that tries to anchor the reader to everyday life and then throw him into a catastrophic story.
Unfortunately, the media constantly inform us of violent acts taking place in the world which are sometimes labeled as tragedies of insanity because they’re committed for no apparent reason. In “Hater” Danny witnesses various acts of violence within a few days and the fact that others are shown on television confirms that this is a real emergency.
Within a few days Danny and his family’s dull life is upset by the spiraling of violent acts. People who commit them are called “Haters” and their number keeps on increasing, leading to a real state of urban warfare with the army trying to maintain order, including even the summary execution of those who are recognized as “Haters”.
Soon among people a climate of paranoia sets in because “Haters” may be relatives or friends who one moment behave normally and the moment after are trying to kill someone. The government gives no explanations, indeed it appears to be trying not to give emphasis to the phenomenon and provides reassurance but when the situation becomes unmanageable takes drastic measures. From this point of view “Hater” is a metaphor for the paranoia of the last few years in which the fear of terrorism increased. The difference is that in reality governments have stressed the issue to lever that fear in order to erode civil rights and in some countries massively increase the military budget.
In the chaos in which society falls when more than a small minority turns into Haters, the situation becomes more and more ambiguous and it becomes unclear who really hates whom. The struggle between ordinary people and Haters becomes a fierce war for survival between two parts of humanity who are too different.
“Hater” has an ending, although it’s clearly open to its sequel. The plot is linear since the story is narrated by the protagonist, who inevitably is the only really developed character. The novel isn’t very long – less than two hundred and fifty pages – and the pace that initially is a bit slow then accelerates. Overall it’s a good novel that is part of the British catastrophic tradition but with present topics.