One of Us by Craig DiLouie

Posted On 28 July 2018

Filed under Book Reviews
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oneofusThey call it the plague
A generation of children born with extreme genetic mutations.

They call it a home
But it’s a place of neglect and forced labour.

They call him a Freak
But Dog is just a boy who wants to be treated as normal.

They call them dangerous
They might be right.

One of Us is a powerful story with an important and relevant message that is every bit as relevant to today’s society as it was in the era in which the book is set.  Oftentimes uncomfortable to read it’s something of an emotional roller coaster that delivers a shock filled sucker punch.  Make no mistake this is not a book that you will enjoy, don’t be deceived by the casual stance of the character on the cover, this isn’t fun.  What it is is a compelling read that takes you quite firmly in it’s grip and doesn’t relent until the final page.  It’s impossible to put this one down, you simply have to know what is going to happen and it delivers that tension and feeling of dread that keeps you racing to the conclusion.

Before I go further I will mention that this book may contain triggers for some readers so be aware of that before you make the decision to pick it up. I certainly wouldn’t call any of the content gratuitous, but it can be upsetting and difficult to read.

So, the world here is a parallel world – a world of ‘what ifs’.  Go back to the late 60s and the sexual revolution leads to a genetic virus, or maybe it’s a coincidence, regardless, many pregnant women give birth to a generation of babies with mutations.  Known as ‘plague children’ these mutations vary wildly from a boy with a dog’s features to a child with a face that is upside down.  The immediate knee jerk reaction was to take all these children and place them within care facilities – out of sight out of mind.  Now jump forward to the early 80s and these children are of an age where they’re beginning to understand how different their lives are and how differently they’re treated, just as they’re also beginning to realise that their mutations, in most cases, also lend them certain additional powers, such as the ability to know what somebody is going to say before they say it, great intelligence, or extreme strength to name but a few.  At the same time, the local teenage contingent are of an age where they are also starting to question the treatment meted out to the inhabitants of their own local home.  Some are ambivalent but others don’t like the way the plague children are treated and think there should be change.

Fundamentally this is a coming of age story with a difference that examines prejudice and shows that sometimes the real ‘monsters’ are not those unfairly labelled as such but are the people who blend seamlessly into society, their real natures masked by their normality.

I’m not going to go further into the plot or add too much more in terms of the characters or world building.  For me, this story is more about the message and the thought provoking themes that help to make that message jump from the page in the most dramatic way.

I don’t want to make this sound ‘preachy’ because I didn’t find that to be the case at all.  There is a clear storyline here but for me it played second fiddle to the emotions that were provoked during the read and that left me with so much to think about with it’s conclusion.

To be honest, this wasn’t what I was expecting at all.  I thought I was picking up an x-men type book with young children coming into their own, developing special powers, maybe having some fun banter along the way before developing into a kick ass team of super characters.  What I actually got was an unflinching story about a whole bunch of children, stashed out of sight, treated unfairly, raised without love and used as unpaid labour until they eventually rebelled.

Maybe not the most fun I’ve had reading a book but to be honest with the message this delivers it shouldn’t be ‘fun’.  I certainly have no regrets reading this even though it wasn’t what I was anticipating.  A well written, thought provoking tale and a demonstration of action and consequence that in spite of the violence and horror also contains an element of hope and an open ending that keeps that hope alive.

I received a copy, through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19 Responses to “One of Us by Craig DiLouie”

  1. sjhigbee

    An excellent review about a difficult and important book, Lynn. Thank you for sharing.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a tough review – and I’ve got another couple of tough ones to write. Need a popcorn read soon I think.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        And some gin and prosac while writing them, I should imagine. I do dislike writing the tough ones!

      • @lynnsbooks

        Yeah – they take me forever.
        Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Best of luck!

      • @lynnsbooks

        Thanks 😀

  2. Tammy

    Excellent review, you touched on everything I felt about the book. It’s certainly a story I won’t soon forget.

  3. Carmen

    It sounds serious. Thought provoking books are good once in a while.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think so – I don’t know whether or not if I’d known I’d have picked it up (I guess you have to be in the right mood) so I’m glad I went into the read with little knowledge.
      Lynn 😀

      • Carmen

        I agree. Knowing what the book is about sometimes deprive us of stories that we otherwise would read. 😉

      • @lynnsbooks

        Exactly.
        Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I saw you discussing this book in the comments the other day, and already I had a feeling this might not be for me. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds great, but like you I had been expecting something lighter and fun and this just sounds way heavier than I would like. Maybe when I’ll consider it when I’m in the mood for some introspection and emotions, but for now I think I’ll pass. Glad you reviewed it, because this was informative!

    • @lynnsbooks

      No worries. It is a good book, but, it definitely isn’t what I was expecting – and I think you have to be in the right mood for it. Lots of food for thought.
      Lynn 😀

  5. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    One of the sentences in your review that most caught my attention was the one about people who look “normal” on the outside while the monster lurks behind that semblance of normality: there are too many examples of that kind of person going around for this to be “mere” speculative fiction. It sounds like the kind of book that makes you think, hard as it might be at times, and reflect on what we are as humans.
    Thank you so much for sharing this!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s got an excellent message, very appropriate in the current climate but also more than that takes a look at how we perceive people. Very thought provoking.
      Lynn 😀

  6. waytoofantasy

    I keep reading so many interesting reviews of this one, think I may have to check it out.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a tale with strong message, harsh in parts but a good read – just don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a fun read.
      Lynn 😀

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