Jack and Ed are best friends, but their battle to stay alive tests their friendship to the limit as they go on the run with a mismatched group of other kids - nerds, fighters, misfits. And one adult. Greg, a butcher, who claims he's immune to the disease. They must work together if they want to make it in this terrifying new world.
Charlie Higson doesn’t hold anything back in this full-on gory fright-fest. If you want to see a zombie story done well then you definitely need to check out ‘The Dead’. I was a little disappointed that this book wasn’t a direct sequel to Higson’s earlier book ‘The Enemy’ which I read last year and thoroughly enjoyed. Instead, the story takes place one year before the events depicted in the first book and features a different set of boys. There is only a small amount of overlap between the two books with a few familiar faces appearing at the end but the premise of the story is the same.
The two main characters and best friends, Jack and Ed, are initially trapped in their school – fighting off attacks from their teachers. In the world that Higson has created, everyone over the age of 14 has been struck down by a disease which turns them into zombies. The only thing that will satisfy them is the taste of children’s flesh. The boys soon realise that they must escape the school, so a small group of them set out for London in the hope of finding some kind of safety. Along the way they have to fight off attacks from numerous groups of ravaged adults who are looking for their next meal. I liked the relationship between Jack and Ed and the way in which they each have different strengths and weaknesses. They both have to adapt throughout the book and grow in character. They find themselves facing things which they never would have dreamt could happen.
It’s also interesting seeing them trying to survive without adults making all the decisions for them. With the circumstances they’re coping with, a wrong decision could have disastrous consequences.
Throughout the boys’ journey, we learn more about the disease itself and what causes it. I was hoping that there would be perhaps a little more explanation as the reader is still left in the dark about a lot of things but I believe Higson has more books in the series planned so obviously only wants to reveal a bit at a time. It certainly helps to keep the suspense high!
Some scenes in the book were actually pretty shocking and this series is definitely not for the faint of heart. A couple of times I had to put the book down and come back to it later because I needed to have a chance to absorb what I’d just read. Characters die and children get hurt and not everyone survives. This isn’t the type of book which has a nice neat happy ending. I really found myself rooting for them all and willing them to live and to fight. I grew quite attached to one or two which meant that I got quite tearful in a few scenes which were very touching and beautifully written.
I’m not usually a big fan of horror but I am enjoying this series so far and looking forward to future instalments. I’m intrigued how everything is going to be put right in the end – if it’s put right!