Saturday, January 22, 2011
A terrible plague is striking down everyone over the age of fourteen, and those that survive now roam the streets as mindless animals, hunting, seeking human flesh. Jack and Ed are best friends, but their battle to stay alive tests their friendship to the limit as they go on the run with a mismatched group of kids - nerds, fighters, misfits - and one solitary adult, who claims to be immune to the disease...
Charlie Higson's sequel to The Enemy takes the central premise of the first book - what if everyone over the age of fourteen suddenly became a flesh-eating zombie? - and explores the ramifications to their fullest and most terrifying potential. With The Dead focusing upon a completely different group of central characters from those in The Enemy, Higson has the opportunity to examine the same overall situation from a totally different angle, and indeed manages to put a new spin on certain events from the first book, which hints at some intriguing and - again - terrifying possibilities for the next book in the series. The plotting is tight, the forward momentum of the story never flagging for a moment, and Higson's characters are empathic studies of the average tween, an uneasy (often contradictory) blend of childlike immaturity and adult intelligence.
It should be noted that, despite The Dead being pitched squarely at the Young Adult market, Higson pulls no punches when it comes to depicting realistic violence, gore, and other dark aspects of post-apocalyptic life, although it's difficult to say who will find such content more disturbing: teens or adults. Far from being a bad thing, I'd cite this as just one of the major reasons that The Dead will stay with readers long after they've turned the final page (and possibly visited the advertised website, about which I'll say no more).
In a nutshell, The Dead is a bleak, emotionally draining and completely riveting installment in what is shaping up to be a brilliant zompocalyptic series. A must-read of the genre.