Strangers by David Moody
I’ve long been a huge fan of Moody, and I count his Hater trilogy among my favorite books. He brings that same eerie, creepy horror to this stand alone book Strangers. Ultimately, some sort of parasitic force causes two people to become completely enamored with one another and then have passionate sex. That makes it sound romantic. Desperate, frantic fucking where they don’t give a shit about the other folks around them. And then one of the people dies, not screaming, but bleeding to death with their genitals hacked to shreds. And then the person who did not die wanders off to find another person to couple with. It’s always male to female, female to male, and there’s no indication that a gay person is involved, so they don’t explore the gender elements. But that’s okay.
What makes Strangers so captivating is more the main characters’ dynamic. A family is moving to the ass-end of Scotland, well and far away from Birmingham where they were situated. Two teen girls are uprooted, and their baby brother, to live with their mother and her husband. While the sex-parasite is definitely intriguing, it’s how the dynamic of the main characters spool out. That’s so well done, so uncomfortable, as we learn more and more of the demons and skeletons in the closet. The disease eventually swoops in to the story, easing through and coiling around the story.
In fact, it’s the horror story that actually gets a little bogged down and overwrought, and the ending becomes a little passive and passe. I was so absorbed in the simple monstrosity of a small-town and the domestic chaos that really the sex-parasite just seems like a castoff. There’s no explanation for it, other than that the military is involved and hinted at it being some kind of biological weapon. It almost gets in the way of an otherwise good story. I almost wanted it to be something else or something creepier. Moody makes reference to some of my favorite stories that are similar: The Thing, League of Gentlemen, The Wicker Man. And I wanted it to be something along those lines. He plays at social commentary, and then kind of eases off it. But it’s still a great story at the core, and really devastating.