Book review: Trust by David Moody
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David Moody's latest (well, a vastly rewritten version of his earlier book) proves as atmospheric as its author's surname would suggest...
If there's one thing that author David Moody has proved over the last decade, it's that he has a knack for taking what might be otherwise tired concepts and scenarios and turning them on their head. Arguably England's premier architect of post-apocalyptic fiction, Moody has become recently concluded the second of two well received series of books, both of which have documented the end of the world as we know it, and both of which have earned their places as modern horror classics.
The first, Autumn, appeared a decade ago and pre-empted the current zombie zeitgeist by a couple of years when he took the bold, and ultimately extremely smart move of giving the first of what has turned out to be a five book sequence away for nothing on the internet, which is where I first discovered it shortly after it appeared. Autumn took the classic zombie apocalypse scenario and gave it an original spin. Not only did the zombies in Moody's undead universe eschew the conventional need to chow down on the living, they weren't actually the focus of the novel, a notion that Robert Kirkman also adopted in The Walking Dead comics, which first appeared around the same time (and, of course, latterly the ridiculously successful TV series).
Instead, it was the people who survived the initial incident (which Moody intentionally, and intelligently in my opinion, never explicitly explained until his recent limited edition chapbook Joe & Me) who were the focus, and this set the Autumn series apart from a lot of the other reanimated corpse reads that have appeared in the last few years.
Building on this critically successful approach Moody told his other sequence, the Hater trilogy (the film rights for which were picked up by Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Toro, though the actual movie itself is currently languishing in development hell) through the eyes of protagonist Danny McCoyne, which gave it a deliciously voyeuristic and claustrophobic feel that carries right through to the downbeat denouement.
With his latest release, Trust, Moody has tackled the age old alien arrival scenario with his trademark innovation, successfully building on the solid foundations of both the Autumn and Hater worlds to present a tale that owes more than a nod to the old V television show, an influence that Moody is happy to acknowledge and in fact discusses in an interesting essay only available in the signed, limited hardback edition of the novel.
Interestingly, while Trust feels contemporary, complete with Stephen King-like pop culture references to the likes of Doctor Who and the aforementioned V, the novel actually predates Autumn and Hater, with the original version appearing back in 2001. Inspired by a dream, and fueled by Moody's fascination with the end of the world, the first version of Trust received good reviews but ultimately failed to set the world on fire. Since then, however, the world of internet publishing has exploded, and so this new, vastly rewritten version of Trust is Moody's experiment in resurrecting his old Infected Books imprint, on which he first self-published the early Autumn novels.
Moody's decision to do this, with a view to updating and releasing his other earlier novels over the coming months, is a move which cements the notion that not only is he a first class writer, he's also an important trailblazer in what will become, I'm sure, a new revolution in the way that new and independent authors can get their work out into the world, the literary equivalent of prog rock legends Marillion who broke new ground in the music industry over a decade ago when they developed their now well-established business model of funding new releases by asking their fans to effectively invest in the album up front.
So what of the novel itself? The concept is simple (the best ones often are) in that an alien spaceship appears over the sleepy little town of Thatcham, witnessed by protagonist Tom Winter among others, and the three hundred and fifty occupants humbly ask the people of Earth to give them shelter while they phone home for an intergalactic tow truck for their irreparably damaged craft. So far, so Alien Nation or District 9 you might be thinking (both of which are neatly referenced to illustrate this very point), but Moody then takes everything you think you know about this scenario and flips in onto its shell. Though the impact of the aliens arrival is global, the focus of the novel is local and centres on a small group of characters and the effect this (quite literally) world-changing event has on them.
To avoid any potential spoilers I'll leave the synopsis at that, but suffice to say things are rarely as they seem, and as the novel relentlessly builds towards its powerful and emotional finale, it deftly explores the notion of feeling like an outsider when your opinion is the lone voice in a crowd (a theme Moody describes in the aforementioned essay as having come to him at a concert, calling it his Coldplay moment), and the doubt that this raises in your own mind because surely that many people can't be wrong, can they?
Moody describes Trust as being an 'anti-science fiction' novel, and this unusual label actually fits it to a tee. Whereas many alien invasion stories are concerned with showing the global effects and implications of the arrival of ETs, hostile or otherwise, Trust's laser-sharp spotlight on the handful of main characters in Thatcham means that while there are casual references to what is happening elsewhere, Tom Winter and his small circle of friends and acquaintances are on the whole too busy worrying about the minutiae of their own lives to be overly interested in the bigger picture.
For regular Moody readers, Trust is the latest in a long line of thought provoking, intelligent novels, and a chance to see him stretch his wings outside of the Autumn and Hater universes. For new readers this is an ideal starting point to discover this major British talent who despite his innovations and successes of the last decade, you get the feeling is only just getting started. Going back to his publishing roots, as well as being available in a signed, limited hardback edition (which also contains the essay on the genesis of the book as 'bonus content'), a regular edition, and a specially low priced electronic edition, Moody is also giving Trust away on the book’s website (here - http://www.trustdavidmoody.com/) a chapter a week, which means that there is no excuse for readers who are curious as to what all the fuss is about not to check it out for themselves. Highly recommended!
Trust, by David Moody, is on limited release from today.
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