Thursday, April 2, 2020

Book Review: 'One of Us' by Craig DiLouie

One of Us by Craig DiLouie

Of human monsters and monstrous humans

American-Canadian author/journalist/educator Craig DiLouie has published many novels in the genres of thriller, apocalyptic horror and sci-fi fantasy fiction, winning many awards and securing a wide audience. One area of focus in which he excels is his uncanny ability to create novels about the causes, impact, and devastation of war. His insights into the origin of conflict and the manner in which war distorts and polarizes society, though depicted as fiction, is as fine as any novelist writing today. He lives in Calgary, Canada.

As is so often the case with Craig’s novels this story triggers our imagination by setting it in the infamous year 1984 – recalling George Orwell’s dystopian novel written in 1949 that still spurs fear – and in doing so launches a story that is not only exceedingly well written: it sear our attention form the first words to the final page. This novel explores the coming of age character alterations in a manner that makes us question many of our ideas.

The bizarre aspects of the characters become apparent on the opening page: ‘On the principal’s desk, a copy of Time. A fourteen-year-old girl smiling on the cover. Pigtails tied in blue ribbon. Freckles and big white teeth. Rubbery, barbed appendages extended from her eye sockets. Under that, a single word: WHY? Why did this happen? Or, maybe, why did the world allow a child like this to live? What Dog wanted to know was why she smiled. Maybe it was just a reflex, seeing somebody pointing a camera at her. Maybe she like the attention, even if it wasn’t the nice kind…’

Craig’s plot outline succinctly condenses the scope of the story: ‘They've called him a monster from the day he was born. Abandoned by his family, Enoch Bryant now lives in a rundown orphanage with other teenagers just like him. He loves his friends, even if the teachers are terrified of them. They're members of the rising plague generation. Each bearing their own extreme genetic mutation. The people in the nearby town hate Enoch, but he doesn't know why. He's never harmed anyone. Works hard and doesn't make trouble. He believes one day he'll be a respected man. But hatred dies hard. The tension between Enoch's world and those of the "normal" townspeople is ready to burst. And when a body is found, it may be the spark that ignites a horrifying revolution.’

Craig DiLouie’s prose is eloquent, deeply compelling, and poses a possibility that alerts us to protect our world against such possibilities as depicted in this imaginative story. It touches many chords of recognition, and that is yet another trait of a brilliant writer. Highly recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.