While browsing Amazon, I stumbled upon a horror novel whose stark cover and title caught my eye. HATE THE SIN by Artyom Dereschuk combines the brutality of being a child soldier fighting for an African warlord with an interesting horror premise involving the undead and a hidden underground world. I came away with some criticisms of the book’s construction, but overall, I found the story fresh, visceral, and engaging.
The novel follows several child soldiers fighting for a warlord during the Liberian civil war in the 1990s. They carry menacing names like “Corpse Eater” and “Desecretor,” and some of them don’t even remember their real names anymore. Their lives as fighters are brutal, not only because they are forced to fight, but because the adults can be cruel and because the man known as General Malaria rules his brigade with an iron fist. After a raid on a local village turns up an unsatisfying amount of food, the General decides to punish it with a killing spree. After they kill the local priestess, the new priestess calls upon the spirits of the Underworld to avenge her tribe.
The novel has some stark strengths and weaknesses. The idea feels very fresh, and the kids, who cling to a sense of morality while living in a brutal world, are sympathetic. The brigade’s fight against the undead is engaging, and the Underworld has a strange and engaging mythology. The action is good in a story that carries through to a satisfying ending. However, sometimes, the story feels rushed, while other times it drags due to repetition, with some characters really standing out and others that are difficult to distinguish. While the novel is billed as a young adult novel, I found it a story more fitting for adults.
Overall, HATE THE SIN was a fun, dark read, offering something fresh for the horror/zombie genre.