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The Enemy
Charlie Higson
Hyperion, 435 pages

The Enemy
Charlie Higson
Charlie Higson was born in 1958. He is a British television writer, actor, an author, and a comedy performer. He first came to public attention as one of the main writers and performers of the BBC Two sketch show The Fast Show (1994-2000). He worked as producer, writer, director and occasional guest star on the revival of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) from 2000 to 2001. In 2004, it was announced that Higson would pen a series of James Bond novels, aimed at younger readers and concentrating on the character's schooldays at Eton. The first novel, SilverFin, was released in 2005.

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A review by Dan Shade

Here we have a fine example of post-apocalyptic science fiction. In spite of the fact that this novel follows a popular apocalyptic theme, everyone over the age of sixteen catches an unknown disease that usually kills them. However, instead of dying or becoming brainless zombies, they become semi-brainless zombies who stumble around in packs attacking children and eating them.

Our story starts with a group of children, the Waitrose Kids -- named after the strip mall they have fortified and live in -- battling a crowd of adults in a London, YMCA-type community recreation center where they have gone to scrounge food out of vending machines. Upon arrival, they discover the machines have been thrown into the pool, the water of which has turned into a pea soup of goop, and are floating about half submerged. This means half the candy is still good. Not having seen a grown-up during their trek to the community center, the kids feel it's safe to enter the sickening water. To their surprise, there are adults hiding in the water who begin to attack the children.

For the record, these aren't just a bunch of stupid kids bungling about and trying to survive by chance. They are an organized army with a general, subordinate officers, and soldiers. The disaster has forced them to learn fast. They have their positions and they have learned how to fight like a unit. For weapons, they mostly use axe handles and home-made spears. Even though they have good strategies and are not weak from malnutrition (they forage as well as they fight), it is always possible to lose a child or two in a battle. In this battle they lose half a duo of essential kids and their leader, 16-year-old Aaran, is bitten by a grown-up and infected with the disease. The infection of Aaran will prove to be a fatal loss, mourned throughout the rest of the book.

Soon a 12-year-old child named Jester, in a patchwork coat, contacts the group. He tells them he has come from Buckingham Palace where hundreds of kids live in safety and grow most of their own food. He tells them there are no grown-ups in that area and says he has come to lead them there. It takes a while to convince Aaran and the other leaders that this is the best action for them but eventually they get organized and leave in a tight formation with the youngest children in the middle surrounded by warriors.

This was an exciting book to read and I could hardly face putting it down. Most importantly to me, there were no parts that caused me to moan because the author had overlooked some big obvious problem. For example, in Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer, a book I enjoyed reading, another post-apocalyptic young adult novel, the author overlooked the problem of gangs and gang attack on the small community that was trying to weather the worst of the storm. She had food and water shortages, lack of medical aid, people hoarding food and not sharing with the group, and every other thing you could think of but never once were they attacked by a gang who wanted to rape their women and take their food. Of course rape is not an appropriate topic for a young adult novel, but there's lots of other havoc a gang could have caused.

Charlie Higson's characters are also full of vim and vigor. No cardboard stand-ups here. I was very comfortable with the teenage thoughts and feelings they had. There was even a budding love interest which was felled because of an accidental death but all of the typical stresses of childhood and adolescence were present. Higson also did a good job of showing us how children can organize and learn to work together towards the greater good when times demand it. For example, the way the Waitrose kids and other groups were organized. How natural leaders, not all male, rose to the top and led the groups with insight and foresight. Aaran was a particularly promising character whose life was cut short by an adult bite that infected him. But he kept his act together and continued to lead and fight until his accidental death by another child who was an archer and shooting into the crowd of adults. And it was, in my mind, quite childlike in the way the kids accepted the accident and didn't blame the shooter. Oh, there was some grumbling but it didn't last long. Partly because they were on the move to Buckingham Palace and didn't have the time to think about it. Had they been adults, I fear there would have been ugly repercussions. Also, I think the kids recognized the need for good archers for every defense against the grown-ups was necessary and archers can shoot from far away.

Finally, I found Higson's book to be unpredictable. Except for the everyone over 16 dying or getting sick, the rest of the book was quite original. I think you will find many surprises and especially the end. The book didn't turn out as I expected. It was, in fact, better that anything I could have thought up. I'm starting to buy more and more books for my Kindle as I've long ago run out of bookshelf space. The Enemy, however, is a book I'm glad I purchased as a hardback. Now I can put it in some crowded spot and have for reference and for loan. It also gives me a good excuse to buy the sequels in hardcover as well. Sequels? Everything today comes in at least a trilogy. Some (The Lord of the Rings) are worth it over and over again. Others (The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan) which grow to twelve become a bit much for me. Although there are some (The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks) of which I never tire.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at which is currently under reconstruction.

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