- One of Us.
- Craig DiLouie.
- 432 pages.
- Fiction / Horror / Thriller / SFF / Literary Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
They call him Dog.
Enoch is a teenage boy growing up in a rundown orphanage in Georgia during the 1980s. Abandoned from the moment they were born, Enoch and his friends are different. People in the nearby town whisper that the children from the orphanage are monsters.
The orphanage is not a happy home. Brutal teachers, farm labor, and communal living in a crumbling plantation house are Enoch’s standard day to day. But he dreams of growing up to live among the normals as a respected man. He believes in a world less cruel, one where he can be loved.
One night, Enoch and his friends share a campfire with a group of normal kids. As mutual fears subside, friendships form, and living together doesn’t seem so out of reach.
But then a body is found, and it may be the spark that ignites revolution.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Well, damn, I’m torn over this book! Tattered, torn and honestly, I haven’t a clue how I’m going to review it! So, yeah, apologies for the following ramble!
One of Us is not an easy read, which, thinking about it is perhaps an understatement on my part as in places it can be a very hard, uncomfortable and unflinching read. The book isn’t light and full of sunshine and rainbows, far from it. This is a harsh, bleak and brutal book that doesn’t shy away from and isn’t scared to look at tough topics and it will make you flinch.
Set in an alternate 1984 One of Us tells the story of a group of plague children and a group of normals in Huntsville, Georgia.
The plague children are the result of a sexually transmitted disease that created a generation of children born with monstrous deformities (head of a dog, face upside down, roots instead of appendages). Many died but those who survived were shunned by their parents (after all, who could love a monster) deemed as outcasts, they are an abused minority who were sent to live away from the ‘normal‘ humans in harsh conditions at homes (similar to orphanages) where they are used as slave labour.
In One of Us, the majority of the normals class the plague children as a stain on God’s earth, a mistake, an error, a blight and a burden on society who leech on resources and would be better of dead (I tell you it’s a harsh book).
Unless they show ‘special‘ abilities the plague children are used solely as slaves for farm work and menial tasks. If a plague child exhibits and shows a special ability they are then removed from their home and taken to the Special Facility which is part of the Bureau of Teratological Affairs to ‘work‘ for the government which is just slavery of a different kind.
The plague children have enough of their mistreatment and the oppression that they suffer and along with events that transpire in the book a revolution takes place where they rise up to fight for themselves and their rights.
I would often find myself turning the pages of One of Us with a trepidation awaiting the violence to erupt as I knew that something bad was on the horizon and that terrible things would happen to those poor plague children who had been treated as less than human, lower than nothing and for some, like Dog (one of the main characters) who simply wanted to find their place in this world, belong and be.
One of Us is a very character driven read and it’s those characters that drive the story forward. Some of the secondary characters, those on the periphery aren’t that well developed and for some of the humans they do come across as quite stereotypical with their love of booze and guns. For the main characters though, we get to see the story unfold through both sides of the divide (plague children/normals) and DiLouie does a great job of giving the main players all individual voices and personalities and allows you to become invested in his story thanks to his (often) unique characters.
Huntsville and its surrounding area as the setting for One of Us are well realised by DiLouie brimming with atmosphere and tension like a cauldron of simmering tension that you are waiting to boil over.
One of Us will make you ask how much stock do you put in someone’s outer appearance? Do you ostracize them simply because they are different to you?
You will ponder that if you are constantly called a monster how long until you live up to that label as it is all you’ve ever known and start believing it?
You will see that it is what is on the inside that counts, that looks can be deceptive and that just because someone looks like a monster it doesn’t mean that they are actually monstrous.
One of Us shows that monsters come in all guises and come to the end you will see that the real monsters in DiLouie’s work aren’t the persecuted plague children, they are the ignorance of, the intolerance of, the prejudice of and the fear of those who are different.
For the most part, the brutality of the world fits in with the story that DiLouie is telling, it all has its place and it is never overly gratuitous. However, there’s a bit late on in the book that just seems out of character for the character involved and as though it was only added for the shock value.
Personally, I’d have liked the ending to One of Us to have been more closed off and resolved rather than the open-ended ending that DiLouie has gone for but, on a positive with the ending being how it is, it gives DiLouie (should he choose to) the chance to revisit with the characters later down the road.
It feels wrong to say that I enjoyed my time spent reading One of Us. Now, don’t get me wrong the book gripped me, I was pulled into the story DiLouie was telling and I felt compelled to carry on reading but if asked did I actually ‘enjoy‘ it, then, no, I’d have to answer no I didn’t enjoy it as that word ‘enjoy‘ is definitely the wrong one as One of Us isn’t an entertaining and fun read to ‘enjoy‘. Instead, it is a harrowing (though there are sprinklings of hope from both sides) tale that feels important, is unsettling, is serious, will make you question actions and ultimately, it is a thought-provoking story to be experienced.
Purchase One of Us.
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