BOOK REVIEW: One of us will be dead by morning

Title: One of us will be dead by morning 

Author: David Moody

Publisher:  St Martin’s Press,

Published: Out now

 

The horror of the corporate away day is cranked up to 11 in David Moody’s latest novel One of us will be dead by morning. I’ve experienced these team bonding exercises and believe me, they aren’t fun. Which is a tad ironic as reading this instalment in Moody’s Hater series is indeed a lot of fun.

The fewer left alive, the higher the stakes. Kill the others, before one of them kills you.

Fourteen people are trapped on Skek, a barren island in the middle of the North Sea somewhere between the coasts of the UK and Denmark. Over the years this place has served many purposes—a fishing settlement, a military outpost, a scientific base—but one by one its inhabitants have abandoned its inhospitable shores. Today it’s home to Hazleton Adventure Experiences, an extreme sports company specializing in corporate team building events.

Someone thought it would be a good idea to have a team building event on a remote island. Bad enough. Shame, then, that the week away for the book’s protagonists comes to an end a little too late to avoid the world going to hell in a handbasket.

It begins fairly familiarly. The small team of business-types are coming to the end of their collective tethers. Rivalries are bubbling up and personalities clash like the waves crashing on the remote cliffs. Everyone wants to go home back to their loved ones (family members, business meetings). A tragedy strikes that flairs tensions and elicits blame. When the ride home is late, everything starts to fall apart. The islands inhabitants, the adventure team, show levels of professionalism but the strain is beginning to show. When the boat that was meant to collect them is found, wrecked – the next lot of adventurers (schoolchildren, mostly) are discovered to have been brutally slaughtered, those left on the island must start to accept that they must start thinking about survival.

What Moody’s novel does particularly well is the balance between the personal, relatable details of the story’s protagonists, and the horror inflicted by the Haters. There is no explanation given here. There is a simple case of us v them. And working out who is us and who is them is half the fun. People’s personalities come to the fore and not everyone is pleasant or – especially in the case of Moody’s scenario – bent on building a team. We begin with the obvious division between the islands inhabitants (sports team specialists) and the mainlanders (corporate types). However, this division soon fractures and new alliances are forged. And someone else is now on the island, having survived the boat wreck.

It’s a fairly simple formula. Who do you trust? Who is your friend? What can be sacrificed for survival? But I thoroughly enjoyed Moody’s story. There’s not much more that can be said about the plot (without spoiling it). The characters on the island hide, plan, run about and generally reduce in numbers, while trying to find out what is going on back home and around the world, and get home of course. Whether you’re a fan of the original Hater novels or not (Guillermo del Toro called Moody’s 2009 novel Hater “a head-spinning thrill ride, a cautionary tale about the most salient emotion of the 21st century”), this is a great distraction from the true horrors of the modern world by enjoying the slaughter of ciphers of those work-colleagues you’d secretly (or not so secretly) don’t like.

Moody can write visceral horror for sure. But he can also write characters, or at the very least, skilfully articulate their desperation and fears. He acknowledges that the plot isn’t exactly original with mentions of Battle Royale and other fictions. There’s also a little bit Lord of the Flies is some respects. But then how many ways do you tell the story of the apocalypse when stuck on a remote island? He acknowledges the time-old tradition that goes back to Frankenstein and beyond – who is the monster? Is it us? At least, one of Moody’s characters thinks that at least with Freddie or Jason, you know where you stand. Indeed! In One of us will be dead by morning you’re likely to be standing in a pile of gore, or not standing at all.

In One of us will be dead by morning is available now in hardcover and ebook from St Martin’s Press, and as an audiobook from Macmillan Audio. Find out more about Moody at www.davidmoody.net .

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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