After setting up the parallel opening stories in The Enemy and The Dead, Charlie Higson has established a huge canvas of characters to follow in this third novel in his sequence, set in a world where everyone over the age of 15 succumbed to either death or an horrific blood disorder which turned them into zombies. “Fathers” and “mothers” are now the enemy – and, as we learn in this gripping novel, some of them have either retained or are regaining some form of rudimentary intelligence and memory.
Like its predecessors, this book isn’t for the faint-hearted. Children die, in the most horrible way imaginable – the final thoughts of one particular young girl will stick in your mind for some time. There’s a lot of vicious, nasty fight sequences, yet they never come across as gratuitous: Higson recognises that everyone has their limits, and at one point one of his youngsters recall those who simply get too tired and just give up.
But there’s an underlying optimism as well: this isn’t The Walking Dead. We meet a group dedicated to keeping a history going, so there is some continuity with the past – as well as their counterparts, who know that the winning side write the history books, and are planning accordingly. It will be disappointing if we get a sudden deus ex machine that brings all the adults back to health somewhere down the line – but Higson has a respect for his audience that would suggest that’s unlikely.
Verdict: As ever, don’t get too attached to any particular character: no-one is safe! Another strong addition to the series. 7/10
By Charlie Higson
Puffin Books, out now