The second in horror author David Moody’s new trilogy of stories set in his well-established ‘Hater’ Universe - a post-apocalyptic nightmare landscape where rage-infused psychopathic killers stalk and slaughter ‘the Unchanged’ - is an even grimmer and more downbeat read than last year’s One Of Us Will Be Dead by Morning. Frustratingly, it’s a bit more of a slog and, as a result, not quite as relentlessly enjoyable.
Matthew Dunne, the only survivor of the team-building group from the previous novel, has made his way to the ravaged mainland determined to get back to his home on the other side of the country in the hope of being reunited with his agoraphobic wife Jen. Three months on and he finally discovers that his home city (it’s never named but it seems to be somewhere in the Midlands) has become a sprawling, walled-off refugee camp where food is scarce and hope even scarcer. Jen is alive but the pair are forced to share their cramped home with other nervy refugees. Matthew, whose three months out in the wilderness has apparently equipped him with a Liam Neeson-like special skill set (although in all honesty he seems to have survived thanks to a lot of luck and a bit of routine quick-wittedness), explores the city’s fragile infrastructure, discovering that it might not offer the permanent sanctuary that he and the growing throng of fellow terrified Unchanged survivors might have hoped, and that various factions have entirely different agendas which threaten to tear the community apart.
Where One Of Us… focused on a small group of characters in a single location, All Roads End Here is a more sprawling affair and as a result it seems a little more random. The story is less disciplined and it often seems as if Moody takes his tale off in different directions as and when some random new idea occurs to him as he’s actually writing the book. Characters come and go, some story threads seem to fizzle out, and whilst the Haters are a constant underlying threat, horror hounds might be disappointed by the relative lack of gore and violence (although there are a few set pieces here and there) as Moody concentrates on exploring life in the cramped, stifling city and his hero’s suspicions that there’s more to his new environment than meet the eye. The nature of the Haters themselves remains problematic, and even Moody doesn’t seem entirely sure quite what they are. They’re clearly not zombies as they’re capable of independent thought and speech (the concept of the rehabilitation of the Haters is one of the book’s more intriguing conceits), and towards the end of the book they’ve formed themselves into an army yet Moody constantly refers to them as creatures and monsters and, at one point, as feral beasts who are now barely even human.
All Roads End Here is a saggier, baggier book than its predecessor but the pace finally picks up in the last few chapters - with an ending that’s genuinely bleak and desperate - which seem to finish Matthew Dunne’s story yet sets the trilogy up for a conclusion which will hopefully take the narrative in a different and possibly even darker direction.
ALL ROADS END HERE / AUTHOR: DAVID MOODY / PUBLISHER: ST MARTIN’S GRIFFIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW