Newest Review: ... diseased adults as they lack the capacity to understand their actions. As the story progresses more children will join this group - an... more
The Dead - where it should be
The Dead - Charlie Higson
Member Name: broxi3781
The Dead - Charlie Higson
Advantages: Brilliant book for boys - but not just for boys!
Disadvantages: Could be the stuff of nightmares.
'The Fear' is Charlie Higson's second "zombie" novel, although perhaps zombie is not the correct the word. The dead do not rise in this book - once dead they stay dead. In these books a plague has struck every person over the age of 14. Many of the adults died, but those who didn't have been reduced to mindless zombie like creatures. The sick are covered in boils and in constant pain - only one thing eases the pain and the degeneration of their disease ridden bodies. The one thing they crave is the disease free flesh of the children.
This is the second book in this series, but really should be read first, as this is a prequel. It begins only a few weeks after the outbreak of the disease which ravished the continent before very quickly jumping the channel to Britain. This book focuses on a group of boys from a private boarding school, especially Jack and Ed, who are best friends. The strength of this book is that the characters are so completely realistic. The boys from the school cover the whole range of personalities. There is real depth to each character and you do actually care what happens to them.
In the Young Bond series Higson created characters in which the good guys were very good and their adversaries truly evil. In this book, the heroes are flawed. For the most part, these are ordinary children who rise through extraordinary events to do heroic things, but they make mistakes, terrible ones at times. They have faults, and a fair amount of them. I don't know if any the children can be classed as truly bad, I found myself liking aspects of all of them, but some of the children do have some problems shall we say. No one is truly evil though, even the diseased adults as they lack the capacity to understand their actions.
As the story progresses more children will join this group - and some will be lost. Each one will bring their own story to the group, changing the dynamics as additions to a tight knit group would change in reality with the addition of more people. Strengths will be found in different traits, many that may have seemed strange before the change friendships will be tried and tested and new alliances will form. This to me is the meat of the story. The interactions between the children and a new society in a land free of adults - or almost free anyway. One adult will come into the story at some point. The zombies are just a side line to me. To call this a zombie book is rather like calling The Lord of the Flies a shipwreck book. It is true, but it far too simple and does not really describe the most important parts of the story.
I mentioned in my review for 'The Enemy' that I had some doubts about allowing my son to read these books. They are intended for an older audience - I would expect at least age 12, and my child is not quite 7. In the end I did decide to read the books to him, as I had already bought them and my options were: forbid him to read them, let him read the books himself, or read them out loud to him. I chose the latter. Although my son does read now, I still enjoy reading to him very much and he still enjoys listening to stories as well. I also feel if the material is at all questionable, it is better for me to be reading to him, and able to gauge if the book is at all upsetting him, as well as be able to discuss any issues the story brings up.
This book does have a very wide range of potential audiences, and I know I am not the only adult to really enjoy this series, so I will be very careful to avoid spoilers, but parents should be aware that this book includes extreme and graphic described violence. There is also quite a bit of foul language, in fact there were some words I was to embarrassed read out loud. I would pause as I came to these words and my son would have a wee giggle reading them himself. I do think the language was completely appropriate to the characters though, and would not want it removed. I think it is what young readers would expect and relate to as this is the way real children in these circumstances would talk.
I am sure parents will expect somewhat frightening material, but there are some aspects of this story which I think make it especially frightening. There are very graphic descriptions of body parts being ripped apart, but even more frightening - the creatures doing this are described as "Mothers" and "Fathers". The thought of parents becoming child killers is even more horrifying. I could very easily see this book causing horrific nightmares. I am completely convinced I would have loved this book at my son's age. I am equally convinced I would have been up half the night squealing the boards down with nightmares, but every child is different. Again I do not wish to spoil any one's enjoyment of this book so will not give a spoiler, but if buying this for a young child, I would most strongly suggest you read it first yourself. There is one other section I feel would be especially terrifying to children, but I can not discuss it without spoiling the book for adult readers. If you are buying this for a child, please feel free to message me for more details.
For all my worries though, my son absolutely loved this book. He couldn't wait to hear more of it, and it has certainly made story time the high point of his days lately. He has not been frightened or upset, although there was one section which raised a few concerns. We were able to discuss this and put his concerns to rest - another reason I am glad we are sharing this book rather than him read it on it's own. My son does like violent video games and television shows. He very clearly distinguishes between real and make believe characters, and is not at all frightened by this book because everyone knows there is no such thing as zombies.
He does like the violent sections, descriptions of battles and so on. But what he really loves is the humour, the banter between the children and the way the kids relate to each other. I think even for him, the zombies have become a side issue. His favourite parts are when the children are slagging each other, from which he took one phrase which both boys found so funny they were nearly tears :"My butt is prettier than your face". It must be one of those things you have to be quite young to appreciate. He also loves the sections with one child who has clearly lost the plot and become a bit of a religious fanatic.
He loved this book so much he ended up reading some chapters on his own, just because he could not stand to put this down when I was finished for the night. That in my opinion is the mark of a good book - one that is so exciting a child just can not leave it, but it is hard for books to compete in a world of dvd's computers and video games. The Charlie Higson books not only compete, they leave the competition in the dust. I know the feeling. I read this book myself first and ended up half the night to finish it. I just didn't want to put it down.
I am clearly not in the target audience for Charlie Higson's books. And yet, even reading these on my own, I really enjoyed these books. Sharing them with my son is an added bonus. I have to admit, I do still have a slight preference for his Young Bond series, but these are still among the most entertaining books I have read in years. I enjoyed them so much I picked up a couple more horror books. The first I found absolutely horrible, but the second book - 'I am Legend' was brilliant. It was after reading that book that I realised, I did not like Charlie Higson's zombie books because they were about zombies - as I mentioned I feel the zombie bit is really secondary in this book. I liked these books because they are incredibly well written. I think this book compares very well to works such as 'I am Legend' and 'The Lord of the Flies' in terms of the quality of writing. That is very high praise indeed.
Summary: A future classic
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