by Charlie Higson
A group of schoolboys fight for survival when everyone over 14 turns against them…
In some ways a prequel to last year’s hit young adult novel The Enemy, The Dead tells the flipside of that story, explaining how the group encountered at the end of the first book came together and took over theTower of London. Like its predecessor, it’s uncomfortable reading at times, particularly as Higson creates characters that you care about – even those destined only to survive for a few pages – so each death is felt as keenly by the reader as by the protagonists.
A few more clues are doled out as to the cause of the illness that affects adults and older teenagers, with a logical, if rather stomach-turning explanation given for the reason the survivors, dubbed Sickoes, become cannibals, desperately trying to eat children. The occasional scene portrayed from a Sicko’s point of view emphasises the way in which they regard the youngsters as something completely different from them, and thereby fair game.
Higson has clearly carried out his worldbuilding before starting on the series – while both books can stand alone, there are moments reading The Dead when elements of The Enemy take on a larger significance.
Verdict: Roll on the third novel! 7