Friday, June 24, 2011

I was Dying to Read this One!

The Dead: An Enemy Novel
There is nothing more terrifying than every adult turning into a flesh-eating zombie-like creature who likes to munch on kids, right?! With his first book, The Enemy, Charlie Higson told the story of kids trying to survive a year after a plague ripped through England and left all adults gross, hungry beasts. Now, with the prequel The Dead, he has gone back to the beginning of the plague and told the story of another group of boys making their way to London.

When a YouTube video shows a boy terrified and filming a bunch of adults attacking and eating a kid in the streets, everyone thinks it is a joke. But a couple of weeks later, it becomes clear that was the first recorded outbreak of the virus that turns anyone 16 or older into zombies (sort of). They can still think in a way, and aren't technically dead, but they are creepy and want to eat little kids. A group of boys had been holed up in their prep school dorm, but when the adults threaten their stronghold, they know they must leave the school. Along the way, they pick up more kids, lose some kids, and eventually, just before a group of teen zombies wipes them out, they are saved by a man driving a bus. Greg and his son Liam have survived the plague so far, and Greg keeps driving, trying to find a safe place and saving kids on the way. What they don't know is the virus is slowing breaking Greg down until he becomes one of them.

Alex and Ed are the closest thing to leaders the motley crew of kids has, and they are reluctant to assume the roles. Ed can't bring himself to kill the adults, even when they are trying to rip his friends apart, and Alex just wants to go home. The boys finally arrive at the Imperial War Museum, but it is already being held by a group of boys who has no intention of giving up their stash. They agree to let the group stay, but only if they forage for their own food. In the meantime, a blazing fire is working its way up the south end of London, straight to the museum. The boys know they need to leave the only safe place they have found in weeks, but they are reluctant to do it, until they find the fire and a swarm of adults rushing towards them. Now it is a race against time, an inferno, and flesh eating zombies to get across the river. Can they make it?

This was an awesome prequel. Even though the first book did a good job with explanation, this book clears up some confusion, especially about the state of the virus and what it does to people. There are some chapters where the zombies are actually thinking/talking/planning, and you get to see how the virus affects them and creates the flesh eating monsters. It made the clear distinction clear between a traditional zombie and the virus that changed these people. While the story had the chance to be very bloody and gory, it really isn't. Of course their is violence, but it is tame compared to what it could have been.

Instead the focus of the book is primarily on character development. You see certain types of kids, like the dumb (but sweet and heroic) jock, the nerd, the brain they nickname Wiki, the natural leaders, and the power hungry bullies. The stereotypes are certainly there, but the characters don't really fit into these preordained molds. They tend to surprise you time and time again, giving real life to the kids in the book. This book, like the first, had a certain Lord of the Flies quality to it that is hard to miss. The language is very tame, but the content can be a little serious in terms of death and violence. I would say this book is good for most middle school through high school students. It might not be for the more delicate souls, but a feisty kid who needs a thrill-filled book would love this one! I think you can understand the story in either order, since this is a prequel, so don't be afraid to try this one even if you haven't read The Enemy. And remember... don't let the zombies bite!

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