First published back in November of 2019, British author David Moody’s third and final instalment in his ‘Final War’ trilogy was (at the time of writing anyway) the final book from the author’s highly-revered ‘Hater’ series.

The book slots into the ‘Hater’ universe, following on from both ‘Dog Blood’ (2010) and ‘All Roads End Here’ (2019), bridging the final gaps in the storyline and feeding into the evolution of the entire ‘Hater’ premise before ‘Them Or Us’ (2011) brings the series to a dramatic end.

DLS Synopsis:
It’s October, but ever since the bombs dropped, the climate had been as fucked up as the world now was.  A thick fog of dirty cloud now stretches across the skyline, leaving what’s left of the landscape in a shadowy quagmire of gloom and grime.  The nuclear assault had left behind little more than a rubble-strewn wasteland in its devastating wake.  The relentless rainfall that followed, leaving much of the resulting devastation submerged in vast puddles of stagnation.  This is the new world.  This is all that’s left.

But there are still survivors clinging on to an existence in this post-apocalyptic hell.  Survivors from both sides of the conflict.  The Haters and the Unchanged.  And even after the bombs have dropped, even after the world around them has been torn down, their hate-fuelled war continues.

The thirty-three remaining survivors from the bunker under the printing house find themselves being forced out from their claustrophobic sanctuary underground by severe flooding; slowly emerging into this hostile post-nuclear wasteland.  Among them is Matthew Dunne.  A man who has been through more than most.  A man who has become natural survivor.

Tired, scared and hungry, the band trek through the shadowy darkness of night, looking for somewhere to hide out.  Somewhere they can be safe for a short while.  But there are Haters out there too.  Those consumed but an irrepressible compulsion to kill the remaining scatterings of Unchanged.  They too have grown weak and desperate.  The ravaged world equally taking its toll on both sides.  Nevertheless, the hate that floods their senses has not dissipated.  The threat they pose to the Unchanged, as real as it was the day this madness all began.

Not too far from where Dunne’s group have emerged, a larger assembly of survivors have managed to create a moderately defendable hideout at an RAF base in Thornhill.  Although they know their time there will be limited.  The Haters will find them.  They always do.

However, they have their eyes set on the last remaining CDF Outpost near Cambridge.  It offers a potential sanctuary, should they manage to make it there.  Amongst those left at the outpost are the remains of the Civil Defence Force.  Trained fighters who could protect them.  Although any weapons they have would only ever be a finite supply.  And the Haters are many.

Meanwhile, close by in the remains of the once prestigious Cambridge University, Johannson has formed more than just a base of operations for the Haters; it’s become a home.  A fortress within a world that’s been stripped of warmth and emotion and purpose.  For those there, killing is perhaps the only positive action that remains.  All that matters now to them is fighting hard and staying alive.  And it appears they might have a large group of Unchanged on hiding out on their very doorstep.

Two factions on either side of the war are facing off.  Two desperate and tired groups of survivors, digging in deep for the last reserves of energy to fight. The Haters and the Unchanged.  Each side has their own objectives.  Held together by their respective leaders, both sides have learnt to become organised.  Both have regrouped and become increasingly confident in their plans for survival.

The war is far from over.  The nuclear strikes only levelled the playing field some more.  Now, in a hellishly hostile new world, these two opposing sides will stand against each other, in a desperate fight for the final breath before their life in choked out for good…

DLS Review:
So here we are with very possibly the final instalment into Moody’s much-loved and highly-revered ‘Hater’ series.  As previously stated, the book slots snuggly into the pre-existing framework of the series.  It brings together the two parallel running storylines – that of the original ‘Hater’ (2006) and ‘Dog Blood’ (2010) thread, together with the more recent parallel running ‘One Of Us Will Be Dead By Morning’ (2017) and ‘All Roads End Here’ (2019) which formed the ‘Final War’ storyline.

Although still very much focused on following the desperate plight of Matt Dunne from the ‘Final War’ books, we now see a return of Danny McCoyne from the original trilogy.  McCoyne’s return is also far more predominant than his cameo role in the previous book.  In fact, this final instalment pretty much follows the two parallel surviving protagonists in equal measure.

Of course they’re both on the opposite sides of the Hater war.  Hater and Unchanged.  Although the thing about them is they’re both regular guys.  That’s Moody’s trick.  His signature.  Regular Joe’s flung into the mayhem of a truly catastrophic event.  Here we have these two individuals, on either side of the war, both just trying to survive in this brutal new world of unparalleled violence.

To follow what’s occurring and where we are in this book, you really need to have first read the other instalments.  Yeah, it’s got it’s own self-contained storyline.  However, to really appreciate where we’re at and where we’re ultimately going with this book, you need to have the history of the other books under your belt.  In fact, it’s very much centred at being just that.  A final chapter that pulls everything these two guys have been through so far on their journey together.  It’s a novel that cements where the ‘Hater’ series was heading, how the characters’ themselves have been changing, and how the model of Moody’s idea has evolved into a much more thought-provoking beast.

It’s a David Moody offering so you know the pacing is going to be as tight as a bull’s asshole in fly season.  And oh god does this final instalment keep up this momentum.  Barely a page goes by without some desperately fraught character confronting the next challenge of survival along the path of their spiralling existence.

For a large chunk of the tale you can’t help but feel a ‘Mad Max’ vibe is seeping into the bones of the tale’s feverish body.  The escalating tension between the two opposing factions:- the Unchanged led by the overly-confident Estelle Bisseker, and the Hater grouping led by the starkly single-minded Johannson, keeps the impetus behind the story’s direction thundering along with an uncontrollable urgency.  However, despite the near-constant call to arms, Moody manages to keep his eye firmly on the emotional plight of the characters, rather than merely becoming swallowed up in the exploding chaos of war.  We see our now beloved characters flung back and forth through peaks and troughs of turmoil.  Situations flip from desperately severe to ecstatic triumph in the blink of an eye.  It’s pulse-racing intense stuff, that consumes your senses like one hell of a fucked-up drug.

As previously mentioned, ‘Chokehold’ slots in just before the explosively final book in the series ‘Them Or Us’ (2011).  We’ve seen the protagonists (on both sides) evolve over the course of the previous books, and indeed, within this penultimate instalment.  It’s gotten us into a position where Moody can deliver some quite poignant suggestions.  Notes akin to Matheson’s ‘I Am Legend’ (1954), with the idea of a gradual shift in who the monsters now are, seeping out of the blood-drenched carnage.  The fleeing from the enemy is essentially over.  Now the characters must make choices on the direction of their continued survival.  No longer are they force-fed their next move, their actions dictated by the escalating situation.  Instead, they have options to consider.  Each option weighed down with the knowledge of countless repercussions for them and all those around them.

Ultimately ‘Chokehold’ is a novel that delivers far more than a simple feeding into the overarching series.  The sheer intensity and drive within the tale is damn near palpable.  It delivers action and aggression and the very deepest desperation in absolute abundance.  But it’s that all important human element, Moody’s signature stance with post-apocalyptic novels, that floods through the book like an emotional tsunami.  You really feel for the characters deep in your gut.  You live through every second of their hurt, their terror, their godawful desperation.

‘Chokehold’ is exactly the novel that you were hoping Moody would deliver.  It doesn’t hold back.  Doesn’t sell out or stick to easily tried and tested paths.  Instead it punches with the fury of a desperate final stance for survival.  The stakes always feel impossibly high.  The repercussions for one wrong move, terrifyingly real.  The novel’s intensity is mind-blowing.  There’s no taking a breather, no relaxing, and absolutely no short stints of reading.  Once you’re in, you’re in.  And the fucked up terror of the Hater war will swallow you whole.

The novel runs for a total of 344 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Hater’ instalments:





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