Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Permuted Press/Gallery Books (May 20, 2014)
One day, suddenly, children die. Not just some children, all children, across the globe. The only warning is a headache and comments of strange smells. Then darkness. Medical authorities name the disease Herod’s Syndrome, named after Herod the Great, the man who ordered the deaths of all boys of the age of two and under in Bethlehem. Only children who have not yet reached puberty. The town is devastated. So many children die, funeral homes run out of space. Getting a typical burial is a premium, there just isn’t enough space for them all. Instead, they are all buried in gruesome mass grave sites.
Then a few days later, the unthinkable happens. The children return. They have memories of what has transpired, memories of their passing. Quickly, a mere hour after their return they begin to weaken…and ask for blood. Without blood, they “sleep,” dying once again. A pint of blood keeps them animated for roughly an hour. Parents are desperate, asking friends and love ones for donations. Blood banks are emptied; no one is donating enough blood to sustain them. Each time the children go to sleep, it is as if their body is experiencing a stroke, so each time they awaken, they are less and less the child they used to be. Citizens, parents, are doing whatever it takes to keep their children alive, even if it is just for brief time…no matter the cost.
Ok, ok, I know this sounds gruesome and gaudy. I’m not going to lie, Suffer the Children is a pretty difficult read, whether you have children or not. I can’t imagine losing my children over and over again, the only way to sustain their life is by giving them a part of mine. All this said, what made this novel, and others like it, truly outstanding was that it is not only a story of an apocalyptic event but also a character study into how we, as a society, react to such a horrific event. Although the act that transpires is devastating, it isn’t the act that brings the horror. It is society, our response to the situation. Slowly, yet steadily, even the strongest individuals transform into monsters. You won’t find gratuituous violence in this novel; everything is expertly crafted is drawn out in order to demonstrate the effect this devastation has on society.
Additionally, DiLouie doesn’t quickly gloss over what happens, the transformation society takes in response to Herod’s Syndrome. Instead, readers follow a handful of families and their children, we watch how they slowly decline into shell of human beings. This…this is what makes me love and appreciate the horror genre. Well-done horror makes you think, dwell, on a subject. It has a lasting effect, not because it is gruesome and gory, but because of the impact it makes on your soul. When we hear the term vampire, we instantly picture a horrible, blood-sucking monster. What if that monster was a child, your child? Would we have the same desire to destroy them?
I can’t recommend this novel to everyone for obvious reasons, but if you are looking for an intellectual piece of horror fiction, this is the book for you. Highly, highly recommended (with warning)!
Check out this interview with DiLouie with other horror greats about his motives for writing Suffer the Children.