Saturday, April 5, 2014
The Dead by Charlie Higson
If you like: the undead * Lord of the Flies * rot
The Dead traces the beginnings of the outbreak a year before the events in The Enemy occur. The sickness has just spread in The Dead, and many do not know the rules of how to survive it yet. There are many questions about when people will turn, and whether or not it can be avoided. Any children are just emerging from their initial shelters, and are not yet hard-worn warriors of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. There is still hope that some last bastion of healthy adults that will arrive in order to restore order and end the madness taking place.
In The Dead, we see how several different groups have dealt with the emerging crisis. Our main group is ill prepared, having been isolated at a prep school at the time of the outbreak. Their limited interaction with the outside world means that they lived in a remote, protected area where teachers were able to isolate them from the worst of the initial violence and destruction. Within this group are those that cling to the promise of religion to carry them through. Though their visions are the remnants of carbon monoxide poisoning, they are no less fervent in their belief. Two other groups have both adopted a militant stance inspired by a disciplined leader. David King’s group follows his every order, and his unbreakable will gets them what they need. Unfortunately, bravado and force will only get you so far with the infected, so they have experienced casualties. The group at the Imperial War Museum led by Jordan are similar. He knows they have limited resources that will be very necessary to their survival. Saving everyone who comes by would mean reducing the chances of all their survival. Though he too has strong resolve, he is no where near as unyielding as David. Jordan is the type of leader who is willing to make some concessions for the greater good. Though immediate safety is paramount, access to food and water are nearly as important. The groups that understand this will be the best suited to survive in this new, terrible landscape.
Each kid deals with the end of normalcy in a different way. Some refuse to accept what they must do in order to survive. For Ed, it is nearly impossible to accept that he must be willing to use force against those he still recognizes as humans. He won’t let go of the notion that they are people he has known or may have known. Others, like Jack, hold out the belief that once they make it to a certain place they will be fine. For some it is home, and for others it is a landmark that holds happy memories and dreams for the future. In some ways this type of belief is far more dangerous than that of Ed, since no place has escaped the spread of the disease. These people are willing to do what it takes to get them to their point of salvation. They are willing to fight irrationally or make great sacrifices believing that once they get to their destination all will be fine. With the destruction of the greater world, having long-term planning is just as critical as taking care of short-term needs. Relying on dreams of the future will not heal your wounds or fill your belly. The worst are the type who refuse to believe any of this is happening to them. Like Ed, they are not willing to cause harm. Unlike Ed, they do not commit to the necessary actions to their survival. They will not let go of the accruements of their past life, or admit this new danger applies to everyone. Those who cannot except that all over 16 can be infected are the greatest danger. Harboring the secret of those who will change jeopardizes the lives of everyone around them. The combination of these three states makes the early stages of this outbreak vastly more dangerous than the later. Though the sickos will be more hungry as the easy prey are eliminated, the survivors will be the hardened type who are much more successful. When everyone is so focused on clinging to the delusions that carried them through the first moments of the birth of this new nightmare, no one is focused on doing what it takes to band together and save as many people as possible. Selfish-disillusionment is just as merciless of a killer as any infected adult.
If you know everything will be fine if you can just get home, read The Dead.
Higson, Charlie. The Dead (An Enemy Novel). Hyperion, 2011. Kindle Edition.