The Dead by Charlie Higson
‘The Dead’ by Charlie Higson is the 2nd novel in his ‘The Enemy’ series – I read the first book (The Enemy) in January last year and decided to wait a while before continuing with the series. I tend not to read a set of books all in one go, but rather take time in between the novels so as to digest them better. I also like to rediscover the characters. The basic premise of the series (so far) is that everyone over the age of fourteen has become ill, the majority of the population has died from the disease but some do not die but rather turn into a kind of zombie. These people are not the dead reanimated in the true sense of a zombie but they are portrayed as the classic undead – putrid, uncommunicative, physically and mentally unfeeling and cannibalistic; they like and seemingly need to eat the kids left behind.
‘The Dead’ starts one year earlier than the events described in ‘The Enemy’ and the outbreak of the disease is still relatively young. The book picks up a small group of boys from a boarding school that are trying to survive and then follows them and their journey to London. The group pick up new people, lose people and meet other groups along their way whilst developing the main characters and starts to fill in the story of how the disease works and what happened when the disease first broke; there is a lot less of this in the first novel. These children are also all new characters for the series, this is quite refreshing and keeps the reader interested as to how the different character groups will be brought together later in the series. You don’t need to read ‘The Enemy’ before this book, but it probably helps.
I very much enjoyed this book, it was quite a quick read with plenty going on to keep the reader interested. I really like that the book was very unpredictable, not everyone survives (this is pretty clear from the start and not a spoiler), but even characters that you would expect from their plot arc to be a series mainstay are not safe from Charlie Higson’s sometimes brutal story. The book is aimed at the teenagers plus and I would say anyone younger than thirteen should probably wait. However, just because the book is aimed at a younger audience, this thirty-five year old found it just fine! It is quite gruesome in parts and sad, yet some bits were funny and reminded me of just being a kid (apart from all the ‘zombies’). The children are written very well, the thought processes that they are going through are completely recognisable as childlike. Even though some of the older kids in the book are acting up to look after the younger ones, to be leaders and carers, their characteristics are not like an adult. The author also reminds the reader every now and then that these are kids – reading how the group manage to drive a truck for part of the book is a very clever way to show an adult reader what we now mostly take for granted.
I will no doubt, in another 12 months’ time, get hold of the next book in the series and continue to read about the characters from both the previous novels. I am genuinely intrigued as to where the series is heading, and yet I also would like to take my time getting there.
Next up, Pet Semetary… time for something seriously scary!
I have written a blog about A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry which we have read for book group earlier in January, I will post this after the book group meeting on Tuesday 4th February.