Saturday, 23 October 2010
Review: The Dead - Charlie Higson
To my surprise, The Dead introduces us to a whole new set of main characters. We join the action at a posh boarding school, as the pupils fend off the bloodthirsty teachers and escape into the countryside. It's a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire as they hitch a lift to London on a bus driven by a man who is seeminly immune to the sickness - but for how long?
While The Dead does tell us far more about the disease that has turned our world into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, readers familiar with the first book may well find that, at times, the 'sicko' (zombie) encounters become a little repetitive. Higson has undoubtedly endeavoured to keep the action fresh with some impressive set-pieces, but as a reader with a limited theshold for violence, I occasionally found myself skipping the fight scenes to get back to the more character-driven parts of the story. Even when the main characters aren't fighting off hungry sickos, there's a decidedly more gory feel to the story as a whole - including the grisly truth about what's keeping one grown-up character healthy for longer than expected.
As in The Enemy, there are some poignant moments here too. The friendship between best friends Ed and Jack provides many of these, as we get glimpses into their lives before the sickness and really feel the weight of what they've lost. One of the characters makes the comparison between what they're living through and the lives of soldiers in the trenches of the first World War, and it's an apt one. The violence may seem gratuitous in places, but in actual fact we're frequently reminded that Higson's characters are children - and every time there's a battle, some of them die.
The Dead may be a prequel, but it pushes the limits of violence and gore even further than The Enemy did. Not one for squeamish readers, it's an antidote to all those paranormal romances on the YA shelf. Oozing with blood and guts on every page, it'll appeal to those who like their post-apocalyptic horror truly horrifying.
Out: 16th September 2010, UK
Thanks to Puffin for providing a review copy.