6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Enemy (Paperback)
While I usually prefer a first-person narrative, Charlie Higson's zombie horror The Enemy is very much an ensemble piece - and that's part of what makes it so frightening. This isn't the story of one character's nightmare future: it's a story that both male and female teens can find a version of themselves reflected in. There are characters here from all walks of life - from the kids who have found shelter at a downmarket grocery store because it's the one their parents shopped at, to those who have already spent years having leadership qualities instilled in them at expensive boarding schools. Their lives before adults started turning into zombies were worlds apart, but now they're all facing the same horror... and it's pretty obvious none of them can survive alone. So when a small group of survivors are visited by a strangely-dressed boy who tells them there is a safe place left in the city, they figure they've got nothing to lose in setting off through the zombie-infested streets in the hope that it's true - and that some of them will make it there alive.
Without a single protagonist we can count on to triumph against the odds, there's a real sense that any of these characters can die at any time - and many of them do. The world Charlie Higson has created is a dangerous one, and he doesn't let the reader forget it for a second. Because unlike the majority of undead creatures you'll find in recent young adult fiction, Higson's zombies are hardcore. They're decomposing, they eat human flesh and they're scary as hell. I'm not especially squeamish, but even I found myself fighting nausea at several of The Enemy's more stomach-churning episodes. The best / worst part? These zombies are all that the survivors have left of their parents' generation. Our young characters even refer to the undead as Mothers and Fathers - they're running scared of the very people who should be protecting them from danger, and that's both dark and poignant in itself.
If all this is sounding pretty terrifying, that's because it is. But strangely, there's an element of wish fulfilment in this terrible scenario that somehow also makes The Enemy... fun. With all sense of authority gone, those aged fourteen and under now have free run of London. Hiding out in a supermarket, shopping for free in one of the city's most famous department stores, and even getting to explore Buckingham Palace - the possibilities are endless, as long as they can avoid becoming a zombie's lunch. For those determined to restore some sense of order to society, there's also the possiblity of creating a brave new world - but they'll have to convince the less law-abiding peers first, and that's a whole other battle in itself.
The Enemy is a gripping new take on a horror staple. It's a book that reimagines the familiar theme of zombie apocaplyse for a YA audience - and ends up being all the scarier for it. While action tends to take a front seat, there's enough character development to satisfy those who can't survive on plot alone... as long as they like it with a side order of oozing gore. Chilling.