One of Us
By Craig Dilouie
Pages: 390 (per review copy)
Genre: Science Fiction
They call him Dog.
Enoch is a teenage boy growing up in a rundown orphanage in Georgia during the 1980s. Abandoned from the moment they were born, Enoch and his friends are different. People in the nearby town whisper that the children from the orphanage are monsters.
The orphanage is not a happy home. Brutal teachers, farm labor, and communal living in a crumbling plantation house are Enoch’s standard day to day. But he dreams of growing up to live among the normals as a respected man. He believes in a world less cruel, one where he can be loved.
One night, Enoch and his friends share a campfire with a group of normal kids. As mutual fears subside, friendships form, and living together doesn’t seem so out of reach.
But then a body is found, and it may be the spark that ignites revolution.
One of Us offers readers an alternate reality that unfolds in Georgia, 1984. Most of the world is much like you may remember or have heard of, however, a sexually transmitted disease has caused mutations in many unborn children. These children have been cast out by society, deemed inhuman and sent at birth to live in homes where they are raised under harsh conditions and used as labor on local farms. They are monsters.
But Enoch, also known as Dog, dreams of a better life. One where the children will live in society among the normals and grow to earn respected jobs and possibly even love one day. When Enoch and his friends have a chance encounter with the local normal kids and a friendship begins to develop, this life feels even closer than he had hoped.
Then a body is discovered and a grisly accident occurs and the town is looking for someone to blame. What unfolds could very well be the events that begin a revolution. Will Enoch and his friends find their rightful place among mankind or will they claim it?
“Enoch was the name the teachers at the Home used. Brain said it was his slave name. Dog liked hearing it, though. He felt lucky to have one. His mama loved him enough to at least do that for him.”
One of Us is not a fun or easy ready. At times, I found myself taking small breaks to digest what was happening and to even recover from a few graphic moments. I am not quite sure what I had in mind when I picked it up, but I think it was something along the lines of a light, fast-paced science fiction story with a few memorable characters at best. What I received was a heavier, unexpected exploration of humanity that tackled themes of discrimination, hate, and intolerance in the most unlikely but ultimately rewarding manner.
Dilouie crafts a world and cast that perhaps rely on their own familiarities for their true success. Once we strip away the mutation, we are left with a setting and group of characters we can relate to with incredible ease. Enoch and his friends are just teenagers trying to find a small slice of happiness in a life that has dealt them a shit hand. It is 1984 and prejudices and bigotry are common problems in many towns, and here is no exception. The mutation is simply another example, albeit a very extreme one. The fact that One of Us utilizes children to deliver its theme cleverly amplifies it.
“Again, my goal for you kids this year is two things. One is to get used to the plague kids. Distinguishing between a book and its cover. The other is to learn how to avoid making more of them.”
A tale of caution, One of Us exposes us to the real horrors and challenges us to face actual monsters in the form of intolerance and hate. Dilouie offers something truly unexpected, a cleverly written, beautifully executed story with an unbelievable amount of heart masquerading as your typical science fiction but ultimately proving to be something much greater.
Contains graphic, violent & sexual content with a heavy theme of intolerance and hate.
*I would like to thank Orbit for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.
Serves well with earthy blends such as your favorite pu-erh.
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