Friday, October 8, 2010

Bedridden Book Report: The Enemy

Continuing the series of reviews of books I read while convalescing, we now turn to a topic near and dear to my heart: Dystopias!
The Enemy by Charlie Higson

The Enemy takes place in London, in the not-too-distant future. A year or so before, a virus swept through the city (it’s unclear how far outside the city the virus spread, if at all) that infected every person over the age of 16. The infected either died, or turned into, for lack of a better term, a zombie. Those under age 16 were not adversely affected by the virus - except for the fact that they had to watch all of London’s adults die or become monsters that wanted to eat their faces.

As you can probably imagine, not many children survived. The few that did survive have holed up in different makeshift strongholds around the city. The group of survivors we are first introduced to live in Waitrose, a grocery store that is unfortunately running out of food. The Waitrose kids have a pretty good thing going, though. Led by Arran and Maxie (who are totes in love but can’t tell each other), they have kids who hunt, work on their security gates and create useful gadgetry, lookouts, and even nanny-types who take care of the younger children. The Waitrose crew know about only one other group of survivors, some kids down the road who have created their own fortress in another grocery store, Morrisons. The two groups tolerate each other, but are in no way working together. Waitrose is a democracy, with Arran as a benevolent leader, while Blue, the leader of the Morrisons kids, is the only true decision maker for his crew, and they must follow him or be left behind.

There are a lot of simultaneous storylines in The Enemy. One of the Waitrose kids, Small Sam, gets kidnapped by a group of grown ups (what the kids call the decaying killers) and taken to Arsenal Stadium, which has become a sort of nest for grown ups. He eventually escapes and finds himself held prisoner by cannibalistic un-infected grown ups, rescued by a kid called, simply, The Kid, and the two of them have an adventure of their own. The Waitrose and Morrisons kids encounter Jester, who tells them there are more kids alive and surviving in London, himself being from Buckingham Palace, which he makes out to be a real utopia. The Waitrose and Morrisons crews team up and head across London to the Palace, hoping for a safer existence. On their way they meet a few other groups of kids, some of whom join them, some that are enemies.

The kids eventually make it to Buckingham Palace, but, of course, they’re not completely safe. No spoilers here, but I will say the situation in Buckingham Palace totally reminded me of the end of 28 Days Later, when the protagonists finally think they’ve found a safe haven, but really they’ve found most real terror they’ve faced yet. (The fact that the worst monster in 28 Days Later was Dr. Who only made things worse, in my eyes).
The thing I found most striking about The Enemy is the constant action and suspense. Reading it feels like watching a Jason Bourne movie, you're all, "STILL? There's STILL crazy action going on?!" But even though you barely have time to recover between intense action scenes, you're totally into it and can't wait to see what comes next.

The other defining aspect of The Enemy is that NO ONE IS SAFE. There is a LOT of death, and not just random missing kids or mentions of killings. I'm talking about main characters, dying brutal deaths that will truly break your heart. You want these kids to get to Buckingham Palace SO badly, and the fact that not all of them make it is devastating. Amazon says this book is suited for grades 7 and up, but I'm not so sure. We all know I'm no prude, but this book gets pretty upsetting at times. I mean, it's a story of kids' parents trying to eat them alive. That's some heavy shit.

While reading The Enemy I didn't know it was meant to be the first book in a series (of three, I believe). The end is very ominous and, again, so fucking scary, and I thought that was just THE END! Thankfully the second book came out in mid-September, so I will soon be able to know what has become of my beloved Waitrose/Morrisons kids and Small Sam and The Kid. If you're into dystopian thrillers, and are looking for a slightly different take on the zombie trope (but remember, the Grown Ups aren't really zombies, since they never died), then I'd say you need to read The Enemy yesterday. Also, I probably made it sound more scary than it actually is, but it's just that I'm STILL worried about those kids! I lose sleep over it!

Overall Grade: A

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