The Dead (The Dark) by David Gatward

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The Dead (The Dead) by David Gatward

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Zombie horror positioning itself firmly in the Darren Shan market. This first novel takes a while to get going in terms of theme, but provides strong characters, an interesting premise and a wonderful sufficiency of gore. They're going to love it. Bookbag registers its usual pique at a cliffhanger ending.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: July 2010
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0340999691

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Lazarus Stone is home alone - his father's away on business and his mother died in a car crash when he was just a baby. He's lazing around, chatting on the phone with his best mate Craig, when a foul smell begins to suffuse the house. Tracking it to the lounge, he opens the door and discovers a skinless figure drenched in blood. Not a corpse - Red has crossed over from the other side with a message for Lazarus's father...

Hell is full and the Dead are coming.

The Dead is the first in a series, with the next two books already with publication dates slated, and it can be tricky to set up the premise without running out of steam too early on in the cycle. Gatward has chosen to deal with this by making this first volume a bit of a mystery tale about what is actually going on. So the full background picture does take a while to get going and I must admit that I'd have preferred a quicker set up and a more rounded whole to this first instalment. Perhaps then we could have avoided the cliffhanger ending, at which I register my usual pique.

Having said that, Gatward wastes no time in getting stuck into his horror element - which is what the readership really wants, after all. Chapters 1 and 2 crank up delicious apprehension as it gives us a boy home alone in a creaking old house and chapter 3 goes out all guns blazing with an absolute barnstormer of a horror scene featuring a portal into the land of the dead, and lots and lots of blood. It's as good a chapter as I've read in any teen horror novel, and marvellously gruesome. I loved it.

Lazarus starts the book as a typical teenager - gossiping with his mate on the phone, eating junk food, being lazy, making a mess. By the end, he's shaping up to be a great central character - independent of thought, courageous, loyal and impulsive. And his friend Craig provides a welcome foil. There's a great deal to enjoy in this book and the series seems set to provide lots more. Teen horror fans are going to love it.

My thanks to the good people at Hodder for sending the book. We also have a review of book 2.

If they haven't read it already - unlikely! - then they really shouldn't miss Darren Shan's wonderful Demonata series. If it's specifically zombies they like, then they could look at The Enemy by Charlie Higson, which uses them in a future catastrophe story rather than a horror novel. My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick is classy horror, fusing zombies and vampires.

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