Rating: 4.25 stars
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Infected: Possessed by demons.
Cursed: Injured by Infected. Marked by demons for future infection, they are essentially slaves, under constant watch for infection.
Deviants: Cursed who escape from the state imposed slavery and try to live free. If captured, they are burned alive to protect society.
In a world gone mad, where demons possess people, the infected wreak havoc on others. Luke Retter’s father became infected, tortured and murdered Luke’s mother and sister, and then tortured and disfigured Luke before the authorities killed him. Missing an arm and eye after the attack, the worst part for Luke is the demon’s mark on his shoulder. Those who are marked by demons are said to be an easy target for demon possession, and so the government created the UCIS (United Cursed and Infected Security) to ensure that the cursed are monitored, essentially made slaves “for the good of the people,” and if they abandon their work placement, or become infected themselves, they too are put to death.
Luke’s latest assignment is at a private school as a cleaner and one day while returning from the store with cleaning supplies, Luke hears taunting from an alley and bravely distracts the bullies, allowing a young boy to escape. Luke ends up stabbing one of the bullies and is then severely beaten himself. He wakes up in the care of a deviant, Zack, who nurses Luke back to health and allows Luke to return to his duties. Luke likes Zack, who seems genuine and kind, for a deviant.
One night, when returning from his workout in the forest, Luke stumbles across a student, drunk, passed out, and about to be discovered and expelled. Taking pity on the student, Luke manages to get him to safety. Later the student approaches Luke and introduces himself as Tom. Tom wants to be friends and hang out in secret. Luke is astounded, but feels good about the attention, like when he was at Zack’s recuperating. The two return to his room and share stories. Tom explains that he drinks for stress relief, which baffles Luke who can’t imagine what stress could Tom possibly have to deal with. It turns out that Tom is also cursed, but his mom’s political connections have allowed his condition to be kept a secret. Not fair.
Tom continues to spend time with Luke in secret, and Luke does find Tom attractive until a drunken Tom approaches Luke for sex. Luke is so vulnerable, he knows it is a terrible idea, and fortunately Tom falls asleep before anything can happen. Zack also wants to be friends, but Luke is confused because all of a sudden, people are interested in getting to know him and spending time with him and his loneliness makes Luke excited yet weary at the same time.
When Luke becomes infected he goes to Zack for help. Darren, a fellow deviant and healer, manages to suppress the demon in Luke, but before he can expel the demon fully, the safe house is raided. Darren and others are captured and Zack is gravely injured. The UCIS raid has prompted the deviants to abandon Atlanta and Zack wants Luke to come with them. Zack sees past Luke’s missing hand and eye, and for the first time since he was a child, Luke feels hope. Escaping the UCIS is not easy, however, and Luke may face capture before he even has a chance at a future with Zach.
First of all, I want to say that overall, the story worked. This was our world with a sinister twist.
I did have had a hard time relating to Luke as a character. Regardless of the situation, it felt like he had virtually no emotion, and an “oh well, I’m cursed, there’s nothing I can do” attitude. Even his description of some of the torture and atrocities at the hands of his father were a bit flat to me. I figured it was because his spirit has been beaten down for so long, by so many people, that he truly did not care anymore. The threat of torture by the UCIS doesn’t sway Luke to betray Zack and his gang of deviants. Luke had hoped for a future as a deviant with Zack as his boyfriend, and yet again, all hope has been torn from Luke. Now I’m depressed.
None of the secondary characters really made me feel for them either. Luke’s supervisor, Wahrmer, was on the same frequency at all times: angry (how exhausting). Henry, who did the rounds, was the stereotypical snitch, and Zack the unsung hero. Each of them played their part and nothing more. Now considering the bulk of the story took place in a matter of weeks, and Luke was segregated and limited in his freedom of movement, I cannot in all good conscience hold the lack of depth found in the secondary characters against the story, especially since this element did not take away from the overall feel.
O.K., this was a biggie…How does Tom shower? Have sex? He has a curse mark on his ass. On. His. Ass. He provided an explanation but all I could think was “seriously?” And then to make Tom just that much more appealing, he is a closet-case “player,” thinking he can get some easy action from Luke and blame it on booze. Luke is fragile enough, desperate for a friend, thinking Tom is that person and I cannot blame Luke as the only time I got that emotion was when he was lamenting his lack of connection with others.
I would have like to find out more about Zack, though. The freedom fighter, potential love interest, and all around good guy (criminal activities notwithstanding). His was a character with so much potential and to be honest, I am hoping McCormack releases a sequel that pulls all of the strings together in a nice pretty bow.
I did notice gaps between the chapters at times. For example, Luke is recovering from a beating at the deviant safe house and expresses his fear of returning to the school because of being late, losing the bleach he was sent to buy as well as the school’s money. Next chapter, Luke is cleaning windows and we wonder what happened, if anything. The pace was also a bit inconsistent, and the story dragged at times through the middle.
Hideous is a young adult title and maybe it’s just me, but kids must have a high tolerance for violence and gore. I will never look at a potato peeler the same way again. The ending was the best part of the book, a real “holy shit” eye-opener. McCormack set it up brilliantly and I was completely floored and will say that I never saw that ending coming.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.