Friday, July 2, 2010

Sci Fi Friday Review: The Enemy by Charlie Higson

Found via: Teacozy

The EnemyI love books that mashup some of my favorite tropes. Here we've got zombies (which implies postapocalyptic) and no grown ups because whatever makes you a zombie only affects adults. Awesome.

A year and a half ago, a virus swept the world, affecting everyone over the age of 16. No one died, but their brain functions weakened to the point where speech was impossible, motor functions impaired, and they suddenly had a taste for human flesh.

The survivors - all children - have holed up in various places, trying to survive. Our main protagonists have found refuge in a giant grocery store, but after a year and a half even that bountiful food supply is running low. Even worse, morale is plummeting as the grown-ups seem to be getting bolder and more children have been taken (presumably for dinner) in the last few months.

Hope springs anew, however, when a new boy enters the compound, telling stories of a new society being set up in Buckingham Palace. He promises the zombie threat is actually less the farther towards the city you go, and at the Palace they have all the space they need to raise food, and it will be the start of a new civilization. It almost sounds too good to be true, but even if it is, the store doesn't hold much hope any more, so the ragtag band of kids set off

This is a sprawling, old fashioned, zombie story (but not old-fashion-zombies, because as a kid points out in the story, no one died and came back from the dead. These are zombies like 28 Days Later has zombies). There is a huge cast of characters and several distinct plot lines going on at any one time (not only do you have the main group of kids going off to Buckingham Palace, but there's a lone straggler who ends up wandering through the Tube system). Normally I love big sprawling stories, but in this one I felt like there was just too much going on sometimes, which made it hard to be invested in many of the characters. I couldn't even keep names straight for the longest time, even though each kid we're introduced to has a distinct personality.

I do, however, love that Higson leaves us at the end of the story with just as many questions as answers. For example, no one knows how this virus is going to affect growing kids. This isn't like the FAYZ where you turn as soon as you hit your 16th birthday. Also, we get hints that the zombies may not all be soulless, flesh eating monsters. Are they learning, a la Day of the Dead? Evolving? Or were they never all so evil to begin with?

While sometimes it's hard to remember what name goes with what kid, I love the essence of this story. This is a zombie survival adventure. There's no real romance to complicate matters, none of the kids have superpowers, and the zombies aren't used as an absurd comic device. They are terrifying monsters and the kids have one mission: to survive. Just the way I like my zombie stories!

What SF have you read this week?


Deva Fagan said...

Sounds interesting, sort of like The Tribe ( but with zombies!

I just started SHIP BREAKER and am enjoying it. And I just finished LEVIATHAN which I suppose counts as scifi depending on your definitions. Also very good! Looking forward to the sequel.

Angela Craft said...

Hadn't heard of The Tribe before, but it looks like there's definitely a similarity. Then again, there are lots of stories where the adults are dead/gone and kids are fending for themselves.

So glad you're enjoying Ship Breaker! It's totally awesome. And Leviathan is definitely scifi. I just picked up Behemoth (the sequel) at ALA and will have a review up closer to the publishing date (which I believe is in October).

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