The Dead by Charlie Higson
|The Dead by Charlie Higson|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A prequel to Higson's earlier zombie horror novel for kids, The Enemy. It's probably even more effective as a horror novel than the first - but since it's only book two in the series and the first left us on a cliffhanger, it seems like an odd place in the series to put it.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: September 2010|
|External links: Author's website|
Ok. I'm writing for two sets of readers here: those who have read the first book in the series, and those who have not.
The Dead is a prequel to The Enemy but both books are set in the same post-apocalyptic world in which the adult population has been decimated by a killer disease. Those that survive roam the streets as zombies, looking for untainted human flesh to eat. The only untainted flesh belongs to children who were fourteen or under when the disease struck, and were somehow immune. The Enemy is set two years after the epidemic, when it's getting more and more difficult for children to find food and shelter by scavenging and they are beginning to realise that they need to band together to start forming the prototype for a new society.
The Dead, on the other hand, is set just after the disease has taken hold. One or two adults are still healthy - but their days are numbered. The narrative follows a group of boys from a posh public school as they fend off bloodthirsty teachers and make a break for the country. Their journey eventually leads them to London, and the scenes of the action in the The Enemy.
As ever, Higson is bang on the money in terms of managing a huge cast of characters, making them believable, and holding tension. He writes in a pacy, accessible way that's as attractive to adults as it is to its teenage market. He's not afraid of violence or gore and he pays great respect to a popular genre. Everything you could want from a zombie novel is in here - so don't get too attached to any of the characters, because this really is almost a zero sum game!
As a standalone novel, it's absolutely great. Just what it says on the tin. But I wasn't convinced by it as book two in a series. There's a little bit of linkage to The Enemy at the end, but mostly the book felt almost like a re-write, as if Higson had two ideas for book one and has now written both of them. I like a good prequel - but not at this stage of the game, and not when book one ended on a cliffhanger.
I had a bit of a dither about the star rating. In the end, I've settled on four stars - The Dead really is the perfect example of a genre novel for kids and a great zombie tale. It can be read as a standalone novel, despite being part two of a series. It's a hugely refreshing change from the supernatural romance slush being thrown at us, too. However, as part two of a series, and when part one left us on a cliffhanger, I'm not going to pretend that I wasn't rather disappointed. The fit just didn't feel good. I really didn't understand the progression at all.
My thanks to the good people at Puffin for sending the book.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Dead by Charlie Higson at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Dead by Charlie Higson at Amazon.com.
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