Sunday, September 01, 2013

Book Review: The Dead

The Dead by Charlie Higson

I guess I would start by saying not to read the summary on Amazon or else you pretty much know the entire plot. Sheesh.

Anyhow, The Dead was every bit as good as the first book The Enemy (My Review). These books (there were originally supposed to be three but now there's going to be at least six, maybe seven) take place in a world where something has affected everyone over the age of 16. (In the UK versions, it's apparently over the age of 14. Weird, but whatever.)

Whatever it is severly cripples them. They grow blister and boil, lose their hair and lose their ability to think and their bodies begin to decay. All they want to do is eat children. One of the theories is that there's something about those who were under the age of 16 at the time of whatever - that they possess something that the older "people" now crave - something that fights off whatever's affecting them. They lack thought or strategy and can't do even the most basic of things anymore but when there's enough of them, then you're in trouble.

This book takes place a year before book 1 closer to the fall of civilization. It starts with a chilling YouTube video where a scared child shows what he sees outside his window, fearful that they're trying to get in. He calls them "mothers" and "fathers" and the name sticks. At first, it's thought that it's a hoax and there are parodies, but pretty soon no one's joking. Like the last book, the story follows groups of children trying to navigate the town for different reasons - a desire to get home, a realization that their current location is no longer safe or outrunning a massive fire that's destroying the town.

The action is fast and furious, the children all believable with distinct personalities. And because it's earlier on, these children are less war-weary than the children of book one. There's growth of characters, hope, fear and belief. You cheer them on, you groan when they make mistakes and you feel bad when some of them die. I had forgotten that feeling a little bit between ending book one and starting book two. And so when they started introducing all the boys in the room of the school, I sighed and set the book down and remarked to Lori "Darn.. I forgot.. some of these aren't going to make it."

The digs at modern society (chemicals in food, light and environmental pollution, reliance on technology and electricity) are minor and in a way, amusing, almost like he's slipping them in there to see if people notice.

The depictions of violence and of the decay of the adults is gross - I could never watch anything like that on TV - but because you have a reasonable assumption of certain characters surviving and because it's so unlike what's going on in our world today that I'm able to separate it and it hasn't impacted me.

And like the last book, I couldn't put it down. It's suspenseful and he does a good job of ending chapters so you think "Oh, I'll stop at the end of the chapter" and then you get there and you think "Oh, I must go on." Only when the following chapter jumped to a different place in London following a different group did I have any chance of putting the book down. I think what I like is how well the characters are written and the fact that up against horrible odds, you see these children being ingenious, creative and taking care of each other. Gives you hope.

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