Thursday, November 29, 2012
The Enemy by Charlie Higson
If you like: outbreaks * Lord of the Flies * London
The Enemy is the story of a post-outbreak London. Anyone over eighteen has become a diseased, flesh-craving monstrosity, and the remaining children have been fighting to survive for months. Many have congregated in supermarkets and famous landmarks, but food is becoming scarce and the other children can be as fearsome as the adults. Each faction has a different vernacular for dealing with the situation, but they are all searching for food, safety, and hope. Some individuals have loftier goals, and their quest for power in a powerless world is even more dangerous than any adult.
Although The Enemy is an outbreak story, the zombie-like adults are very secondary to the overall conflict. The harm in this story could easily have come from some other type of worldwide disaster that incapacitated the majority of humans. That being said, this outbreak is very intriguing. Unlike other zombie-style illnesses, not everyone returns from the dead. Much like the flu, where different people experience different levels of symptoms, this disease runs the gamut from nearly dormant to mindless creature to death. The complexity leaves a lot of captivating questions for both the children and the reader.
In the ever changing world of The Enemy, determining who is the biggest threat is often difficult. It could a be chum that has been surviving alongside you for weeks. It could be the rival group down the road. It could also be the leader of a new group that makes grand promises, but hasn’t told you what you’ll have to give up in return. At first glance, the adults seem like the biggest enemy. Though physically dangerous, the general population is easily outwitted. Increasingly, individual adults seem to be gaining sentience, with the ability to influence the others. With the number of survivors growing smaller each day, it will become progressively more important for them to work together. In spite of this, greed is king. Each group leader wants to rule the whole, and each group harbors secrets. When faced with a living nightmare, it would be a great benefit to work together without ulterior motive, but it seems inherent to human nature to seek more for oneself, and use others to fulfill one’s goals at no personal cost. At what point does survival of the species outstrip individual desires? The ultimate enemy takes the shape of others, be it cannibals, groups from across town, or those that have a different world view.
If you look for leadership from undead royals, read The Enemy.
Higson, Charlie. The Enemy. New York: Hyperion, 2009. Kindle Edition.