The Dead by Charlie Higson

The Dead by Charlie Higson

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.

World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z by Max Brooks 

I have recently finished this book and had about a week to ponder upon it.  I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by this book – unlike other zombie books that I have read (not that many, but a few) I enjoyed it not just for the pleasure of being a little creeped out and gasping at the gore, but also for the sheer pleasure of reading a book that approached an idea in a different way.  That’s not to say that it wasn’t a little bit gory and not a tiny bit creepy, it was these things but also so much more.

The book is subtitled ‘An Oral History of the Zombie War’ and it remains a journalistic endeavour throughout.  I really enjoyed the interview style structure of the novel, each small chapter lending a new voice to the story.  The books real strength was in the compassion that you feel for these people from the go, drawing you into a snapshot of their lives, and feeling their emotions as they recollect the personal stories that they have to tell.

The book opens very well, straight into the outbreak and doesn’t hold any punches, however, it is compelling, drawing you into this new world with subtle hints of what the future holds.  I felt that I was reading genuine recollections, with the interviewer prompting every now and then for further information.  I am the kind of reader that is easily drawn into a story, even a fantastical one of this nature – I think this really helped as I was quick to suspend my beliefs and live through a zombie apocalypse (not a phrase I use every day!).  Some characters do reappear through the book but no two people are interviewed twice, I did think that the interviewer would revisit some interviewees as the chronology continued, but in the end this was no bad thing.

I think that being a fan of the genre helped me enjoy this book, but I would recommend it to those that are not ‘horror’ fans.  This is not horror in the conventional sense; it’s not trying to be Stephen King, James Herbert or even something like Shaun Hutson.  It is a newer breed of these types of books, they do have those elements of horror that will please the fans, but they also twist the genre in a new way that is often very much needed.  Very much like ‘Let the Right One In’ it does things differently; it’s not like ‘Let the Right One In’, in fact it’s not like anything that comes to mind straight away, but it is different in the best way possible.  I would say to any reader out there that if they want something a little different, something intelligent, and also something that is driven with a great pace, then give this book a go – you never know you might like it too.