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Suffer the Children

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From an acclaimed horror writer, a chilling tale of blood-hungry children who rise from the dead in this innovative spin on apocalyptic vampire fiction.

Suffer the Children presents a terrifying tale of apocalyptic fiction, as readers are introduced to Herod's Syndrome, a devastating illness that suddenly and swiftly kills all young children across the globe. Soon, they return from the grave…and ask for blood. And with blood, they stop being dead. They continue to remain the children they once were...but only for a short time, as they need more blood to live. The average human body holds ten pints of blood, so the inevitable question for parents everywhere becomes: How far would you go to bring your child back?

343 pages, Paperback

First published May 20, 2014

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About the author

Craig DiLouie

62 books880 followers
Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, Craig’s novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film. He is a member of the HWA, International Thriller Writers, and IFWA.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 953 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
October 18, 2019
this is an excellent piece of literary horror, and a clever spin on the traditional vampire story.

in this novel, we see the rise of an epidemic that comes to be known as "herod's syndrome" in which all children who have not yet reached puberty suddenly die. not after an illness, not with any warning signs, they just suddenly drop dead, all at once.

the immediate aftermath of this is grim - in the relatively small suburb of lansdowne, michigan, where this story takes place, they are suddenly faced with 90,000 tiny bodies, and the traditional rituals of corpse-disposal and burial and even grief itself become impractical and are replaced by the horrifying but necessary removal of the bodies by the sanitation department after which they are tossed into mass graves before rot can set in. nearly everyone has lost someone, but there is no time for proper mourning, and the collective-grief isolates people in the same way that a single death generally brings people together to offer comfort. but the shock and horror - the unknowing - leaves no room or time for the comfort of a community.

this book is most horrifying when it is relaying these kinds of details. supernatural elements are all well and good - chilling in their own way, but when it comes right down to it, it is the "this shit could actually happen" horrors that are the most effective. to me. because i do not believe in vampires. but a sudden pandemic that leaves thousands dead and necessitates thousands of bodies being heaped in a giant hole without even a marker to identify the final resting place of a loved one? yeah, that i believe in.

and that would be horrifying enough, but then dilouie is kind enough to lay out what the loss of an entire generation means to the economy, and ultimately, the continuation of the species.

"We've got serious problems ahead. Think about all the industries serving kids. Toys, books, TV networks. Movies, breakfast cereal, clothes, car seats. Schools, teachers, pediatricians - jeez, the list goes on and on. They're all basically out of business. We're talking hundreds of billions of dollars, a big chunk of the GDP right there. There's going to be a massive recession…That's not even the half of it. There's going to be at least a twelve-year gap in student enrollment in all schools and colleges, in workers contributing to Social Security, in new people entering the workforce. Think about how many geniuses we lost when Herod's struck. Kids who would have grown up to cure cancer or make a better lightbulb."

add to this all of the adult suicides in the wake of herod's, and the fact that since unborn babies also died in the womb during the herod event, it seemed that indicate that we might not ever be able to bring a baby to term again, and you got yourself a horror story.

but then we go back into the supernatural. because the kids - they come back. after three days, they climb out of their graves and find their way home to their parents, smelling like what you would smell like if you had been dead for three days. at first, it seems to be a miracle! parents who have been grieving for three days do not care about the smell of rot when it is on the bodies of their returned children. they are just so grateful to have them back. and they hug those little gas-bloated bodies close and thank the heavens above for their reunion.

until they die again.

oh, this emotional seesaw!

but all is not lost. soon it is discovered that if the children ingest human blood, they can be briefly revived. one and a half pints of blood enables one child to come back to life for about three hours, after which they return to their death-state, during which their bodies continue to break down as though they had never come back to life. but blood is a finite resource, and the body can only give so much before it begins to suffer anemia, headaches, weakness and confusion.

"It's not recommended to give blood more than once every fifty-six days. It takes that long for the average healthy body to regenerate the lost red blood cells. Take too much, and the body starts to shut down."

and that's where things begin to get really scary. because what would you sacrifice to keep your children alive, even briefly? your money, your morals, your health, your body? what wouldn't you trade to keep your family together? what if you have more than one child? what if you are a single mother with only one body to drain?

and things get ugly, because there isn't much that parents wouldn't do for their children. and they will do it all. there is one particularly chilling scene that takes place in a grocery store that proves my point about real-horror being wayyyy scarier than supernatural horror.

things escalate from there, as they do, and both the children and the parents go through terrible transformations as the story narrows towards its horrifying conclusion.

it is wonderful, frightening, bloody stuff, in an admirably layered story that is so much more than just a vampire tale. i definitely want more from this guy.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Misty Marie Harms.
559 reviews415 followers
April 3, 2022
Herold's disease sweeps the globe, killing all children that have not hit puberty. The world mourns as experts scramble to find out why. Three days later mass graves are being filled, the children miraculously resurrect. Millions of children are suddenly "awake". No vital signs, smell of decay, skin gray, these children are shells of what they used to be. Only one thing brings them back to their former selves: blood. The blood lasts for only so long until more blood is needed to keep the children awake.

One fabulous bloody book. I love the different take on an apocalypse event using children as our downfall. Parents will fight to the end to make sure their child survives, even if that child is not really their child anymore. Recommend!
Profile Image for Richard.
998 reviews382 followers
January 12, 2016
YO. I gotta tell ya'll, this is one fucked-up little book!

Let's start with this book's awesome premise. Out of nowhere, a worldwide event (later dubbed Herod's Syndrome) causes all pre-pubescent children to drop dead. Then, after three days, it resurrects them, but in order to stay resurrected, they need to ingest a certain amount of human blood. The novel follows three families as they navigate this new reality.

Craig DiLouie takes this crazy concept and really milks it for all it's worth, delivering a creative twist on vampire fiction and on end-of-the-world fiction as well. He delivers horror in the way that Stephen King does with Pet Sematary, feeding on the terrifying concept of a parent dealing with the sudden death of their child, and the lengths that a dedicated parent would go to in order to keep their children alive.

One of the clever things is that it's not even the bloodthirsty children that are scary in this. In fact, when their hunger is satisfied, they're essentially their old child-like selves again. What really brings the horror is watching what the parents have to go through after the children die (like the horrible notion of having to deliver your rotting 8-year-old for burial in a mass grave) and then see what happens when the children come back and the parents realize that it's possible to keep their children alive by feeding them human blood. That one simple thing that can make them whole again, back to the happy children they remember them being. That's what's truly terrifying: watching how this discovery slowly breaks down society, and realize that it's actually really believable. That grocery store sequence? Damn. That's one of the most unnerving and horrifyingly effective sequences I've read in a very long time! And there are other similar scenes in this one that really gave me the willies!

Another clever thing about this concept is that DiLouie can have the parents do anything in this book and it would be believable. Because what parent wouldn't do anything to be with their kids longer?

As I mentioned, DiLouie milks his ideas for all their worth and delivers a truly unsettling story with interesting characters, cinematic prose and some surprising twists of the fucked-up variety. While writing this, I thought to myself: am I really giving this book 5-stars? But I really have no complaints with this bad-boy, so yep, there you go! It's an engaging mix of science-fiction and horror and is everything that end-of-the-world/apocalyptic fiction should be.
"There were so many times I was too tired to play with him. Too distracted by work to really listen. Too irritated by his tantrums and sickliness to be present. Understand? But not now. I look back sometimes, and I can't believe what used to matter to me. The things I used as excuses to get away. Not now. This is a different time. A purer time. I've never known such clarity. The only thing that matters is blood."
Profile Image for Larry.
76 reviews8,738 followers
August 28, 2020
Welcome to Herod’s Syndrome, where blood thirsty children rise from the dead and need a continuous supply of good stuff to “live.” Pet Semetary with kids instead of animals, and for me, a little Lost Boys feel at times.
Profile Image for Brandon Baker.
Author 14 books4,577 followers
January 27, 2022
Horrific. This is probably the most soul shattering book I’ve read in recent memory!!

Every child on earth dies. 3 days later, they come back to life, but can only survive by feeding on human blood. We read from the POV of a handful of parents, a doctor, and even a few afflicted children.

I’m not very good at expressing my thoughts through written reviews, but man was this devastatingly depressing 😅 This definitely won’t be my last book by DiLouie, but I might need to wait a few months if his other books are even slightly as sad as this was 😂

***TW’s for animal and child death, self harm, lots of blood drawing, autopsies, and just general violence and depravity.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,385 reviews408 followers
June 13, 2023
The thought of all young kinds dying across the globe with out any warning or ways to stop it is a truly horrifying premise. It was definitely an intense read how the parents deal with it, first them dying and next.. The end felt like a start to a new story and was a little sad that it ended there.
Profile Image for Katie Colson.
676 reviews6,889 followers
December 5, 2021
I loved this! It is so creepy and sad. It has Pet Semetary vibes for sure. It gets very emotional and realistic while also being so disturbing.

It’s definitely a story of grief and what you’ll do to protect your children. The answer is a whole hell of a lot
Profile Image for Badseedgirl.
1,263 reviews67 followers
October 9, 2022
So in 2014, Blood Kin by Steve Rasnic Tem won the Stoker Award. Now I have not read it yet, but it must be the greatest book ever written to beat out this truly horrific story of how far desperate parents will go to keep their children alive.

This is the creepiest and most unique vampire story I have ever read and I can not express how much I am recommending this to anyone who reads this review. If you are a parent it is going to stretch your morals to the breaking point, and maybe just a little past what you are comfortable with.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,808 reviews797 followers
October 26, 2017
Right from the start my gut was telling me that I'd ADORE this book and my gut was 100% right! In fact, I loved it so much that I think it might actually be one of my top five reads of the year. It had everything I look for in a book and MUCH more!

I was instantly hooked right from the beginning and I just couldn't stop turning the pages. I was both horrified and fascinated by the whole idea behind the story. It's really quite terrifying if you think about it because it raises the question of how far a parent will go to keep their children alive.

I've tried to pick a favourite character but I just can't seem to. I enjoyed all of them for different reasons, some I loved, some I hated and some I just loved to hate. It was really the perfect balance of all kinds of characters to keep me interested and invested in the story!

By the ending of the book I felt like I was INSIDE the story and it was absolutely terrifying but in the best way possible. The ending was absolutely brilliant and gave me shivers. This book really struck a nerve with me and I don't think I've ever read a horror novel that has marked me in the way this one did!
Profile Image for Lucy.
308 reviews50 followers
October 24, 2014
4 to 4.5 stars

First of all I have to proclaim my love for creepy kids in horror books & movies, nothing is scarier than a evil child. There are lots of hungry creepy kids in this one!

I thought this was an interesting take on vampirism. A disease, named Herod, strikes all children of the world killing them. Days later the children are miraculously resurrected but the children are hungry.....for blood. This book explores just how far parents will go for their children. As a mother I could easily identify with the struggles the parents faced in this story. If you enjoy a good vampire horror story, definitely check this one out!
Profile Image for Rachel Hunter.
50 reviews13 followers
July 28, 2023
Sometimes dead is better. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad book, but I felt like it dragged on longer than it should’ve. I really liked the general idea of the book, as it was a different story and felt new(aside from how it reminded me of pet semetary a bit 😂), but I just think it was too long. It is scary to think how the world could so easily fall apart though, and all of the medical stuff gave me anxiety 😂. I typically read to forget my anxiety, so I deducted some points for that. Overall, an okay read, but probably wouldn’t recommend unless you’re really into end of the world as we know it type stories.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,206 reviews3,213 followers
December 29, 2019
3.0 Stars
The horror in the story more comes from the devastating loss of the children rather than their vampire resurrection. This was a very emotional story, addressing themes from grief to the lengths parents will go to save their children. As someone without children, I did not entirely connect with this story. I would recommend this one to parents since they will likely get more out of the story than I did.
Profile Image for Patrice Hoffman.
554 reviews265 followers
May 18, 2014
Suffer the Children is the latest novel written by Craig DeLouie. What's instantly gripping about this novel and pretty much sparked my interest was the creepy cover. I mean look at it. The dirty, dilapidated, beheaded doll always suggests the novel will be pure horror. Long story short, this cover was a tad bit misleading.

It's a normal day like any other in this Michigan town when kids start dropping like flies. They just flat out die. Not just the children in this small town, but EVERY child under a certain age. Everywhere parents are wondering what happens next. Is this the end of the human race? Even unborn children that are in the protection of their mothers womb is not safe from whatever's plaguing the world. This all happens pretty early in the story since the true girth of this novel doesn't begin until all the children start coming back with a taste for blood.

Grieving parents everywhere are left trying to keep their children alive with their own blood. The problem is this is only a temporary solution since the children are only alive for a few hours at a time. Usher in life after Herod's Syndrome which becomes an existence where it is those who have children against those who don't and blood is the only currency that matters.

Suffer the Children is a quick read that I could have possibly gotten through in a few hours but... c'mon, we all have work, school, and life to get to. Anyway, DiLouie instantly grabbed my attention by the neck and did not let go. I was as invested in preserving the lives of these children as their parents were. But surely, life started deteriorating for all the people involved.

So why the 2-star rating? The answer is that eventually I felt that there just wasn't enough here to propel the vampire genre forward. Even bloodsucking kids couldn't save this title for me. Although my take on Suffer the Children is a little more "philosophical"... it still wasn't enough.

Philosophical you say? Yes. I see parents who would do anything they possibly can to save their children, or at least to keep them happy. And I mean anything. I remember all those crazy parents who fight each other for the last "tickle-me-elmo" or the ones who spoil their children rotten and declare that the sociopath they raised just maybe wasn't given enough to keep from turning into a homicidal maniac. The parents in Suffer the Children are the absolute extreme but I've seen enough children having tantrums in the grocery store to know that most parents aren't far from point. Anything, and I mean anything, to keep little Johnny or Sara happy.

Although I wasn't blown away by Suffer the Children I actually look forward to reading more by this author. This novel wasn't bad, I just think the whole vampire thing is the black t-shirt you keep rewashing that fades with every cycle. That black is not coming back.

Copy provided by Simon & Schuster via Netgalley
Profile Image for InkedWxtchReadsxx.
126 reviews28 followers
February 9, 2023
This is pretty much almost perfectly what I would want out of an apocalyptic creepy kid book. And even though it wasn’t totally perfect, it was still very very fun!

I think especially if you have kids this is an interesting read because it’s very much a what would you do scenario. Your kid died, comes back and needs blood to survive continuously. Do you just let them die? Or do you do whatever it takes to keep them alive if only for an hour each day? I think I know what I’d do but I’ll keep that to myself! Regardless we follow a pretty big cast and seeing the decision making was really really compelling. There wasn’t really a moment I didn’t wanna know what would happen next.

That being said I wouldn’t say the characters are very likable…. They’re flawed people, and some are very flawed. But in this situation I’d expect it for the most part.

The things that keep it from being 5 star is the second half of the book is more action packed and high stakes but I felt like the author just held back a bit, and could have included a little bit more with the kids in this half.

The ending I saw coming, but I wish there was more to it, as I actually like the idea of this ending.

Basically this was a fun time, and that’s all there really is to it! I did enjoy this but find I just don’t really have a lot to say about it. It was one of those reads that you don’t really have to think about TOO much. But in turn maybe it doesn’t stick with you as much as you would have hoped it would, either. Which is a bummer because with the type of plot it has, I was hoping it would really speak to me.
Profile Image for ❤Ninja Bunneh❤.
264 reviews173 followers
May 16, 2014
If creepy kid from The Walking Dead,

creepy kid from 30 Days of Night,

and Gage from Pet Sematary by Stephen King all got together, you would have Suffer the Children.

Kids under the age of 12 are dropping like flies for no apparent reason. Parents are consumed with grief, mourning their children, in a state of worldwide shock and disbelief. Society struggles to maintain order as well as handle the devastation.

Suddenly after three days, the kids awaken. However, they aren't the same. In a state of decomposition they wander home to their parents, who welcome them back with sobs of joy and open arms. After all, what's a bit of a stink and leaky bodily fluids when your child has awakened from the dead?

The kids once again die and it soon becomes clear that the only way to keep them animated is to provide them with blood. Each pint of blood is enough to keep a child "alive" for an hour. The children are not the same, but denial is a powerful thing. Parents soon find themselves in a struggle to provide this nourishment and will do anything it takes to obtain it. Humanity and sanity have left the building.

Have we learned nothing from wee little Gage?

Sometimes, dead is better.

3 Blood-Sucking-Ninja-Bunnehs

(Arc provided in exchange for an honest review.)

Profile Image for Jan Agaton.
771 reviews490 followers
June 20, 2023
i refuse to be a parent so yall can say i will never understand all you want, but i know damn well i would never go to these extremes to save my already-decomposing child. i'd choose the grieving process every time, thank you very much.

i was so bored after people realized what was going on. everyone was irrational and annoying and i couldn't stand stupid doug saying "just peachy" every two pages.
Profile Image for Matt Rudy.
86 reviews31 followers
December 9, 2018
How far would you go to feed your child? Would you give your own blood? Would you kill for them?

In this apocolptic book the parents have to really think about these questions.

All of the children in this book are infected by Herod's Syndrome. This illness begins by killing every child in the world. Then it brings them back. These children are not the same once they come back from the grave. They are creepy little vampires who need blood in order to survive.

This book is super twisted, but also strangely satisfying if you are into horror stories. The parents do some crazy stuff to themselves and others in order to keep their children alive. Of course not everyone is on the same page and this causes chaos. To make things more intense these little children are not fully the kids that they use to be. They might have some of their memories and personality, but this changes quickly. They just want their blood.

If Herold's Syndrome was real I would want to be as far away from these kids as possible.

 photo hc-creepy-kids-in-the-movies-20120919_zpsnssm8j3p.jpg
Profile Image for carissa | the.grim.readers.
236 reviews200 followers
February 10, 2022
WOAH this is one that will definitely stick with me. This story was so creepily unsettling throughout most of the story that I was finding myself frequently cringing as I followed along with the audiobook. The narration was extremely well-done and really kept me immersed in the story from start to finish. What do you get when you cross creepy kids, an apocalyptic event, and requiring blood to stay alive? THIS BOOK. Highly recommend picking this one up if you enjoy the horror genre and love a good creepy kid troupe.
Profile Image for Cody | CodysBookshelf.
739 reviews229 followers
October 30, 2017
One day, out of the blue, all the pre-pubescent children in the world drop dead. Three days later, they come back to life — and the only thing that can keep them alive is blood. Desperate to keep their young ones, parents and family friends and relatives donate as much blood as possible . . . but soon enough, civilization breaks down, for this is a vicious cycle. A pint of blood is good for only an hour or so of life. And in the meantime, the children’s bodies are decomposing, despite the fact that they are, in some form, alive.

Okay, this book is pulpy as hell. But I had fun. It’s an interesting take on the zombie apocalypse genre for sure, and I could not put it down. This one is tense from the first page (the reader can almost hear the clock ticking toward the inevitable). It is more than a little cheesy, but it also packs some punches.

What kept me turning the pages was the shifting perspectives. We get bits of the story from Joan and Doug, parents of two young kids affected by what is known as Herod’s Disease; Ramona, a single mother and career woman; David, a local pediatrician; and, from time to time, a couple of the children in their resurrected state. The story unfolds at a brisk clip, and I was never uninvolved. However, I really did not care for Doug. He was just obnoxious and bitchy. And the author pounds the reader over the head with the idea that Doug is sure everyone is out to get him, always has been — but we never really see why. I just didn’t care about him. He oozed with toxic masculinity and I found myself sighing when the book shifted to his perspective. Blah.

This is a really fun, creepy read. I do feel the story’s potential was not fully realized (it could have been much gorier and scarier, in my opinion) and Doug drove me batty! But I had a nice time.

Read for ‘The Dead Will Walk’ in Halloween Bingo.
Profile Image for VintageVamp.
23 reviews11 followers
September 7, 2022
What would you do to keep your child "alive"?


All the children around the world have died. They awaken three days later with an illness. The medicine is blood.

This was an easy read with simple writing. The story timeline is just over 6 weeks.
Kiddie vampires are always creepy but the best example of this was towards the end of the book. The breakdown of society was shown but got better at the end as well.

The parent's desperation was shown best by only two characters. There was potential for so much more like the doctor's wife... you have to read the book to find out.
I did enjoy how the police (in pig masks) were some of the worst offenders.

I wish the author had ended the book a bit better. This was a fun, easy read

3 - Fangs
Profile Image for Jonathan.
104 reviews34 followers
June 24, 2023
Omg WTF did I just finish reading? Lol 😅.

Straightforward, as the synopsis states, all the children in the world perish! A global crisis beyond any parents worse nightmare until three days later the children are suddenly returning back to life only this time there’s a catch. They need blood in order to survive otherwise they die again! Leaving the question, how far would you go to keep your kid alive??

I was hooked from the beginning! The story is told in multiple POV’s which are parents with either 2 or 3 kids and it just strengthens the terror in my opinion making you feel the terrifying reality the character’s experience. Also you get the amount of time before and after the event in which the children globally die which also increases the suspense! The author did everything possible to make this story feel as real as possible, every nook and cranny! From mass hysteria on the news, the national guard getting activated and people fighting each other for blood! I want to say more but I’ll leave it for my review video, lol. If you love horror then you need to read this, it’s basically a mandatory horror fan read! Loved it!
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