Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Enemy (books 4-7)

Charlie Higson
Puffin Books

I recently spent a couple of afternoons working my way through the first three books of Charlie Higson's fantastically bloodthirsty post-apocalypse series, 'The Enemy'.  It has to be said I enjoyed them immensely and so over the next couple of weeks I worked my way through the other four.

You can find my write up of the first three books in the series here.

Book 4: The Sacrifice

The Sacrifice picks up after Small Sam and The Kid arrive at the Tower of London at the end of The Dead. Though Sam finds safety and friendship at the Tower with Jordan Hordern's crew, he can't settle down. The only thing he wants is to be reunited with his sister, Ella. Despite Ed's protests, Sam and the Kid strike out westward, through the no-go zone.

 Book 4 in Higson's 'Enemy' series continues with the overlapping narratives that have characterised the first few as we get to see  what's happening with another group of characters.  This time out we get to see the return of two of the series' most fun characters as Small Sam and The Kid return for the first time since book one.

Sam is still looking for his sister and as much as he likes Ed and the Tower of London crew he's eager to be off.  Into his life comes a girl from elsewhere in London who convinces him to brave the no go area thereby throwing them into terrible danger.  Alongside this we continue to see Shadowman's pursuit of the massive horde of adults that he's named 'The Fear' and his unsuccessful attempts to convince other kids of their danger.

This time out much of the book took a bit of a Stephen King turn as we are bombarded by all manner of religious bamboozle which has always been a bugbear of mine with King's work - the religious zealot endlessly quoting scripture - and it got on my nerves here too.  I know it was meant to but I just don't buy it, especially amongst modern British teens.

The book also takes a major change of direction with the addition of a major new character with the potential to change everything.

So, 4 books into the series and with the halfway point behind us 'The Enemy' shows no signs of slacking it's relentless pace.  The reappearance of The Kid lent this one a very welcome lightness as he's an joy to read whenever he's on the page but you can feel that Higson is winding himself up for his finale here which, with a trilogy of books remaining, means it's likely to be a doozy and I really do hope so as I'd hate to see this series embrace another King-ism and have a lousy ending.

Buy it here:  The Sacrifice (The Enemy Book 4)

Book 5: The Fallen

The Fallen by Charlie Higson is the fifth awesome book in The Enemy series. First the sickness rotted the adults' minds. Then their bodies. Now they stalk the streets, hunting human flesh. The Holloway crew are survivors. They've fought their way across London and made it to the Natural History Museum alive - just. But the fight will never end while the Enemy lives, unless there's another way...The kids at the museum are looking for a cure. All they need are medical supplies. To get them means a journey down unknown roads. Roads where not only crazed, hungry sickos hide in the shadows. Suddenly it's not so clear who - or what - they're fighting.

The perspective flips once again in Higson's post-apocalyptic series as we once again join the Holloway crew of Maxie, Blue, Ollie & Achilleus who have arrived at the Natural History Museum and found a group of kids actively working on a cure for the sickness.

Recognising their usefulness as fighters and scavengers the museum kids enlist them in a search for scientific supplies that leads to the discovery of something far more unusual.  Along the way we get to know some of the odd ways of the Museum kids that has echoes of 'A Canticle for Leibowitz', and there's a sweet little love story of sorts.

With the Tower kids of Ed, Kyle, Small Sam and The Kid making a cameo near the end we are starting to see all the strands of the story draw together for the last two books in the series and the already furious tempo clicks up a notch.

Buy it here:  The Fallen (The Enemy Book 5)

Book 6: The Hunted

The Hunted is Charlie Higson's sixth terrifying installment in the thrilling The Enemy series. The sickness struck everyone over fourteen. First it twisted their minds. Next it ravaged their bodies. Now they roam the streets - Crazed and hungry The others had promised that the countryside would be safer than the city. They were wrong. Now Ella's all-alone except for her silent rescuer, Scarface - and she's not even sure if he's a kid or a grown-up. Back in London, Ed's determined to find her. But getting out of town's never been more dangerous- because coming in the other direction is every SICKO in the country. It's like they're being called towards the capital and nothing is going to stop them...In the penultimate book in The Enemy series, the survivors' stories cross with chilling consequences.

Book 6 and the scope of series suddenly explodes outwards to encompass the countryside and towns around London as Ed and a few others head off looking for Small Sam's sister, Ella.

Through the course of the book we get to meet a character who we haven't heard from since book 2 and experience some of the other towns and how the kids there have adapted. It's a welcome change of pace as the book delves into a characters backstory for a large chunk and then goes exploring for the rest.

So, the next book is the finale as the sickos have begun converging on London and it looks like poor old Sam is in the shit once again but hopefully Ed's army will make for a lively finish to the series.

Buy it here: The Hunted (The Enemy Book 6)

Book 7: The End

The end is coming.
The sickness struck everyone sixteen and older. First it twisted their minds; next it ravaged their bodies. Now the sickos—crazed and hungry for young flesh—are gathered in the center of London, lying in wait.It’s time for all of the survivors—kids spread out across the city—to unite. They must come up with a plan of attack to end the grown-ups’ reign of terror before it is too late.One thing is certain: surprises abound in the bloody conclusion to Charlie Higson’s Enemy saga.

And so we arrive at the final part of Charlie Higson's series of post-apocalypse shenanigans as all the various storylines and characters finally converge for the great showdown, the battle for London that'll decide whether it's the kids or the grown-ups that will be the future.

The now massive horde of adults swelled by their diseased kindred flocking in from the countryside make their final move on the only thing that can stop them.  In their way are the various groups of kids from the museum, parliament, the cathedral, the street kids and those from the Tower of London.  Bonded under the less than sympathetic leadership of Jorden Hodern they have to find the courage to fight the horde and also those more interested in power than survival.  As we now from the previous book, help is on it's way but can it arrive soon enough.

The constantly overlapping narratives of the series has meant that it's often felt like one very long book and that's no insult.  Higson maintains a furious pace across the series and has created a cast of real and sympathetic characters who, for the most part, you find yourself rooting for.  It's no surprise that he can do the funny parts but that he manages suspense, pathos and dynamism all equally well is a real treat.  His dialogue is occasionally a little cringeworthy but adult attempts at mirroring 'youth' talk often is but this never really detracts.

After a bit of a false start a few years ago I had a real craving to go back and do this series again and I'm so glad I did.  It was unexpectedly and unrepentantly vicious and entirely enjoyable.

Buy it here: The End (The Enemy Book 7)

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