Bickering meets brutality in David Moody’s dystopian read

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Hatred abounds from the first page in David Moody’s “One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning,” the first in a dystopian trilogy.

After a jolting opening scene in which a murderous adolescent beats her classmates to death with a chain, readers are whisked away to Skek, an unforgivingly cold, wet island, home to Hazleton Adventure Experiences.  This week, Hazleton is playing host to a group of office workers who despise one another.  We get to know them as they grudgingly begin their final team-building exercise of a corporate excursion.  Everyone is itching to leave the bleak landscape and return to the U.K., but a slip leaves one person dead.  What’s more, the boat to retrieve the group is nowhere to be seen.

People continue to die, proving something sinister is at work.  Soon, the island’s trapped inhabitants realize they can trust no one, including themselves.  Hysteria rises as those still alive wonder if killing is their only shot at survival.

Most of the characters hold tightly to assigned roles, like the money-hungry boss who voices his concern over how an employee’s tragic end will impact his business reputation.  (He later mourns his broken laptop while his underlings bury the dead.)  On top of this, some characters receive physical descriptions while others are presented with merely a name and job title, producing a lopsided nature to many interactions, as when Nils, a sinewy, silver-haired, goatee-sporting man speaks to Rachel, a call center team leader.

Though possessing an intriguing premise, the book is comprised largely of a feverish loop of arguments and brutal killings with few detours for character development.  In the author’s quest to convey vitriol among his cast (with dialogue relentlessly drenched in sarcasm and sneers), he forgoes endearing readers to any of the lot; thus, we’re left with lots of action accompanied by puny stakes.