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Fear is the penultimate entry into Michael Grant's 'Gone' series that depicts the lives of a group of children struggling to survive in a world where everyone over the age of 14 has vanished. These have been cordoned off inside a terrifying grey dome that they have termed the F.A.Y.Z (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) where every animal has mutated and a lot of children have developed strange mutant powers. It's safe to say that if you are not familiar with the series then this won't be the place to start, but you should know that to date the series has retained a very 'Lord of the Flies meets X-Men' concept that is finally getting expanded on by the events in Fear.
In Fear you will finally find out what happened to the over 14s on the day of the big poof. The first chapter is told from the perspective of Sam's mother who; along with everyone else over the age of 14, was miraculously transferred out of the city limits on the day that a sinister grey dome trapped their children. Periodically throughout the book you will return to these characters as Connie Temple tries to play along with the media sensation whilst the government tries to piece together the events inside the dome from an eye witness testimony.
Meanwhile inside the F.A.Y.Z things are about to get even more interesting. Caine has now placed himself king over the town of Perdido beach and is using Penny as a deterrent against crime. Penny has recovered from her injuries in Plague but now enjoys inflicting fearsome hallucinations a little too much. When one poor boy is sentenced to 24 hours of Penny time and subsequently gouges his own eyes out, people demand that Caine take action. Caine doesn't know what to do, but then Caine does not realise that Penny has plans of her own for him.
Sam is still struggling to take the lead of the small group of children that followed him to live by the lake. He dearly misses Astrid who is now living as a Hermit, and finds that he cannot handle taking the lead without her by his side.
Meanwhile the Gaiaphage begins to weaken after the apparent death of little Pete in the last book. In a last ditch effort to be reborn the Gaiaphage sends Drake/Brittney out on a mission to kidnap Diana who is pregnant with Caine's offspring.
As the days progress everyone begins to realise that something is amiss with the F.A.Y.Z. The once grey barrier that projected the images of night and day into the F.A.Y.Z is slowly beginning to turn black. With the F.A.Y.Z wall changing their world will soon be plunged into a terrible darkness. They will neither be able to find their way around, nor grown any more food! The children of the F.A.Y.Z are becoming scared and no one knows how to comfort them.
Now this was far more like it! After the disappointingly gruesome Plague it was nice to get back to a more entertaining story for the kids in the F.A.Y.Z. The addition of a few POV chapters involving the parents outside the F.A.Y.Z adds a little extra depth to the story, but it's still the characters inside the dome that make this story what it is.
The tension felt by the children as the stain rapidly spreads adds a palpable sense of fear that had me turning pages at a frantic pace. Sam in particular feels this fear due to his childhood fear of the dark, but seeing the way he develops as a character by accepting his role as a warrior despite this fear was genuinely involving.
It must be stated that Fear is a far slower book than the other entries in the series. As the name suggests suspense takes priority over the usually action packed narrative, and I guess that is why it is my favourite entry into the series so far. The slow build-up of suspense as the stain spreads added a psychologically disturbing atmosphere that I personally loved. When this was combined with any scene involving Penny I was hooked. I must state that Penny has now been elevated to my favourite Gone villain as she terrified these kids on a psychological level in ways that Drake could never even dream of; and this was without the aid of the Gaiaphage!
So overall I'd rank this as the best in the series so far. It's a genuinely suspenseful read with a lot of psychologically dark moments that; thankfully, have had the gore toned down. The characters are as strong as ever and I loved the way the world has been expanded. I can't wait to read the Finale, and soon!