The Dead is the second book in Charlie Higson's Enemy series, though most of it takes place before the events of the first book (The Enemy, reviewed here). Both books take place in and around a post-apocalypse London. The city, and the world, have been decimated by a plague that killed most adults and left the remainder as mindless, deformed, child-eating creatures. The Dead takes place shortly after the collapse as a group of boarding school boys set out from their once-safe school in search of food and sanctuary.
The viewpoint in The Dead alternates primarily between two one-time best friends, Jack and Ed, now currently experiencing some friction. Ed was always a leader before, but finds himself holding back, unable to commit the violence that's now needed for survival. Jack is a reluctant leader, even though all he really wants to do is go home. Together, Jack and Ed lead a motley crew of jocks and geeks towards London. The boys learn a lot about survival, and figure out a few important things about the diseased adults that they're fighting. They encounter a variety of other kids, some become allies and some rivals, before the action links up with the events of The Enemy.
Like The Enemy, The Dead is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. There are many gruesome sights (and sounds and smells), and quite a few deaths. One of the deaths I found particularly sad (though not on the level of Rue from The Hunger Games), more so than any in the first book.
The Dead explains a few things that were left vague in the first book, and is, if anything, more suspenseful. It suffers not at all from the traditional weakness of the second book in a series. Even though most of the events take place prior to those of The Enemy, I still think that it makes sense to read the books in the order published. Otherwise, you'll miss out on some nuances, and spoil the suspense regarding the survival of a key character from The Enemy.
I don't have a whole lot more to say than what I said about the first book. The Enemy novels are solidly-written tense thrillers set in a perilous world in which children need to work together, negotiate with one another, and figure out how to keep the tattered remnants of civilization intact. Highly recommended and compulsively readable. I look forward to the next book.
Publisher: Hyperion Children's Books
Publication Date: June 14, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.