Wow! The next book in Charlie Higson’s Enemy series is out. I adored the first book, The Enemy, about a disease that either killed or turned people into zombies if they were over the age of 14, it was definitely up there amongst my all time favourite kid books, so I was very keen to get my hands on The Dead, expecting to read more about what happened to the wonderful characters that Higson had set up in the first book. So at first I was a little disappointed to discover that after the brilliant opening prologue of The Scared Kid (you can see the ‘Youtube’ clip here), that Higson was taking us back to events that happened a year before the events described in The Enemy, so a whole new set of characters. I have to admit I was screaming a little in my head “But I want to know what happened to the people in The Enemy!” and it did take me a while to settle in with the new characters, the majority of whom were public school kids fleeing from their school in Surrey into central London. However there is linkage and we do meet earlier versions of several characters from The Enemy, so it was interesting (particularly with one of them, I ain’t saying who) to see their back story. I can see now, from a writer’s perspective why Higson chose to start book 2 a year before The Enemy, he’s created this whole world and I think he’s found it hard to write about such a small part of it knowing that each small group of kids in this world had their own story, so he’s used book 2 to write about more of these stories. I don’t think The Enemy would have worked as well as it did if Higson had tried to cram the stories of the Waitrose kids and the public school kids all into one book, so The Enemy and The Dead both feel like the first part of a series. Also having set up this world in The Enemy, Higson can now talk more about what the disease is and although at times in the beginning of the book Higson was verging on info-dumping through one of his characters called Wiki, I couldn’t help but think he was dropping quite a few clues to help us work it out for ourselves. Higson also finds time between all the action to talk about the different types of people needed to restore a civilisation, how the kids needed to be more than just fighters.
Just as in The Enemy there are some great characterisation, some great fight sequences and general all round creepiness. It was a bit spooky in particular for me reading one big scene that took place literally on the road I used to work on, Higson described it all very well. Plus Higson proved once again that he can write some very poignant death scenes, one of which had me blubbing. However in my opinion The Dead is not quite as good as The Enemy, however it is still pretty brilliant and definitely worth reading as it builds up to an even more climatic next book where hopefully we get to know more about what happened to some of the characters from The Enemy, as well as keeping up with the characters from The Dead. On one final note, if you’re a big fan of the series but it’s been a while since you’ve read The Enemy, if you can hold on for long enough, re-read The Enemy first before reading The Dead because as much as you could jump into The Dead without having read The Enemy first at all, I think you get more out of it if the legions of characters Higson introduced in The Enemy are more fresh in your mind, as like I say, they do pop up again. Can’t wait for the next one now (out sometime in 2011).