Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

Suffer the Children - Craig DiLouie

I was totally intrigued with the premise of this story.

One day, the children died.

All the children. All over the world.

It was a pandemic called the Herod's Syndrome, named after King Herod from the Bible. That guy who killed firstborns because he was told that a baby was born that night who would one day become king. But this is worse. Worse, even, than the 456 event from Torchwood (I did not watch that tv series, but heard of it) where an alien race known as 456 demanded 10% of the children population on Earth.

Because when all the children die, and if no children could be born anywhere without being affected by Herod's, then the human race could very well become extinct in the long-term. In the short-term, it becomes a socioecology problem, because how are so many little corpses to be buried all at once? Mass graves, rotting bodies everywhere, world in chaos with grieving parents mourning their children. And then...

Three days later, they come back.

And the parents were so happy to see their children; apparently alive (or at least bearing the appearance of not being dead), that they took the little corpses in, despite the stench of rot and decay. Because those children are still their children, and they're back.

This is where the line between the rights and wrongs begins to blur, because as a reader and an outsider, decidedly detached from the events of the story, it is easy to perceive what they're doing as wrong and yet so understandable and easy to sympathise with.

And then the children asked for blood.

With blood, they stop being dead. They become the children they once were.

I have a bit of difficulty seeing this with my mind's eye, actually. I can't see how the half-rotting corpses, with discoloured skin and gray teeth and whatnot, could possibly look alive again, with healthy skin and shining eyes, the way they were before the Herod Event struck.

But this life, such as it was, had an expiration. Every pint of blood gives them an hour.

Too soon, they die again. And need more blood to live ...

And that's when things get ugly, and progressively uglier as you read on. The story is told from parents' POV, therefore you get firsthand narration on the things that parents would do (anything), the lengths that they would go to, in order to keep their precious babies alive.

Having read it, I'd expected it to be more shocking, but I think it's a pretty good story and rather well thought-out. Without unnecessary gore and violence to increase shock value, which is definitely a plus.