One of Us by Craig DiLouie

They 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.

This book made me angry.

No, strike that. This book really pissed me off.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Far from it. One of Us is the most powerful book I’ve read in recent memory. It tackles heavy topics that have always been relevant, but the issues covered seem particularly meaningful now.

Sometime in the 1960’s, a sexually transmitted disease swept the world. Instead of killing people, it resulted in children born with…differences.

Some say these children are the old gods of myth and legend come again. They can have spectacular powers, ranging from mind control to flight to just about anything you can imagine. The flip side of that coin is that these children are often deformed, looking like monsters.

The solution? Put them in the Homes. These facilities are essentially modern day slave plantations, designed to save the regular people from having to remember that a different breed of human lives only miles away. The few kids who escape these Homes do so by working for top-secret branches of the government in the Cold War.

Starting to see why this book made me angry?

In the real world, prejudice is the disease. Even the most hateful people often believe their views are justified (if they admit to having those views in the first place). One of Us neatly sidesteps that mental barrier by showing us real-world issues applied towards fictional “monsters.” Throughout the story, some truly terrible things happen. If they make you uncomfortable, good. That’s the point. And if they make you angry? Even better.

We get POV scenes from many characters throughout the book, some from the good guys and some from the bad. I’ll let you make the distinction between the two, the line is blurred nearly beyond recognition. Every character, no matter how despicable, has an element of humanity that is easy to identify with. And that’s important, because almost no one is cartoonishly evil. Atrocities are committed by regular people, and it’s up to regular people to understand this and take action.

Like I said, the book is powerful.

It’s exceptionally well-written, too, with compelling characters and a vividly imagined alternative history. Even if the underlying themes don’t interest you, it’s a fantastic story in its own right.

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