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Choke Hold David Moody Main

"Chokehold" Book Review

Written by Shane D. Keene

Published by St. Martin's Press

choke hold david moody poster large

Written by David Moody
2019, 350 Pages, Fiction
Released on November 19, 2019

Review:

I have a confession. When it comes to zombies and most other end-of-the-world scenarios, I’ve become jaded and pretty much completely burnt. More and more it seems like there’s nothing new or unique to be found and I don’t find the themes to be even remotely entertaining anymore. It’s true that a thing can be done to death—or undeath—and the worst of all is the walking dead. So I’m an extremely hard sell when it comes to the trope. Almost 100% of the time, if you offer me this type of story for review, or even just to read, I’m going to reject it hands down. But there is an exception to that rule and it’s the works of David Moody, in particular, the “Haters” and “The Final War” series. These books, though they may riff a bit on the zombie theme, are in reality much different. The Haters are high-functioning, thinking human beings who just happen to have a deep-seated need to viciously murder anyone they encounter who are not infected with the virus known as the Hate. Several years back I discovered the author for the first time in the form of a book called Autumn and, while that book and subsequent others in that world deal with the very subject I profess to be tired of, it is one of the best of the bunch and it got me curious about the author’s other publications. So on the recommendation of some friends I very much trust in the industry, I took up Hater, the first book in a trilogy that was a total game-changer for me. One that left me longing for more like I never did for any other apocalypse tale I’ve ever read before. And goddamn did you take your sweet time or what, Mr. Moody?

But sometimes good things really do come to those who (albeit grudgingly) wait and this is one of those times. In 2017, St. Martin’s Press released One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning, the first book in a brand new Hater series titled “The Final War.” When Horror DNA offered it to me for review, I was both elated and slightly leery. Returns to such franchises are often publisher cash-grabs, so I always go into them with just a touch of skepticism tempering my enthusiasm. I’m delighted to report that in this case, my doubts were completely unfounded. That book completely dominated my imagination and I finished it in two quick sittings, turning pages so fast my fingers were practically blistering. And it wasn’t a fluke. By the time I picked up the second entry, All Roads End Here, I was a hardcore devotee and I consumed it even quicker than the first, a thing that I wouldn’t have thought possible had you warned me, but it’s true all the same

Which brings me now to this third, and I assume, final book in this series, Chokehold. With many such worlds, you generally have a really good book followed by a few subsequent very mediocre to bad ones. So it’s a delight when one like this comes along. One where each successive entry builds and expands on the previous until the cohesive whole is so damn good, you despair over ever finding anything to replace it once you’re finished. It leaves a hole in you that’s going to take something really fucking special to ever fill it back in. And that’s just the way Moody does things. It is the way with his “Autumn” series and the original “Hater” series, and so it is with this new trilogy of terror and mayhem. The reasons for that are many, but the main one is exceedingly simple and blatantly obvious. It’s because when it comes to pacing, the author is matched by a spare few in the lexicon of great horror fiction. His words move along at a heart-thundering rate, tearing you through the story with the aggression and violence of the hyper-brutal haters that are his subject matter, leaving you feeling both savaged and satisfied at the final outcome. And what a windup it is. With this most recent book, he ties off two major story threads, one that began in the first three and one that began on Skek island in One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning.

It’s that second one I’m here to talk about; the story of Matthew Dunne. The beginning of the series has him on a team-building weekend for his job. The wrap-up finds him having evolved into an individual with unique insights into the mindset of the haters and an almost uncanny ability to predict what they’ll do next. It’s the reason he made it home from the island and it’s the reason he’s survived all this time, why he seems virtually unkillable to the other characters in the story, some of whom wish it were otherwise. This is one of the other things, after pacing, that makes Moody’s books always work so well for me. The guy can develop a character as well as the best in the business and though, like with most of his work, we find a vast majority of the characters to be pretty unlikeable, it does nothing to detract from our desire to learn of their fates nor to lessen our love of this primary character. I hate to lean on cliché, but he seems three-dimensional, motivated by real human emotion, driven by a furious desire to survive, but also vulnerable and prone to being a loner after everything, and everyone, he’s lost along the way. If the pacing and storytelling are the bones and flesh of the novels, then Matt is the beating heart that keeps the blood pumping and brings you back over and over again. In between reading sessions, I found him and his plight almost constantly on my mind and I’m confident you will too.

It’s a rare author who can revisit a highly successful series and bring to it the same alacrity and originality as the first go-round, but David Moody more than meets that challenge with “The Final War” franchise, delivering a trio of books that, if anything, are even better than the original trilogy is. I’ve just barely finished Chokehold and already I find myself wanting to go back and reread all three books again. Yes, really, that’s no bullshit, and you’d be doing yourself a favor to rush off to your bookseller of choice and snag yourself a copy of the three novels that comprise some of the best work this exceptional talent has produced to date. It’s a rarity these days for a book to meet what I consider five-star status, but yeah. Five stars for this amazing thing because I’m not allowed to give it forty-five.

Grades:

Overall: fourstars Cover
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About The Author
Shane D. Keene
Staff Writer
Shane Douglas Keene is a reviewer, columnist, and poet living in Portland, Oregon. He spends his spare time drinking scotch and/or beer, playing guitar, and thinking of ways to scare small children and puppies. He pays meticulous attention to beard maintenance, mostly because it freaks people out, and he writes about dark fiction and poetry in various places, including his blog at Shotgun Logic.
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