Wednesday, August 4, 2010

THE ENEMY by Charlie Higson (YA)

A Book Review by Morzant and Bigfoot

Zulko, humans. Morzant the Alien here.

I've studied Earth history extensively, but until I read THE ENEMY by Charlie Higson (Hyperion-Disney Book Group, 2010), I was unfamiliar with a particularly fascinating and tragic series of events that took place in London, England. Every human being sixteen years of age and older was afflicted with a dreadful disease that rotted their flesh and inhibited their vocal abilities. Those suffering from the disease were ostracized by society, turned out of their homes, and left to fend for themselves. It’s no wonder they became ravenous cannibals.

While THE ENEMY is a riveting account of courage and survival, I was disappointed to find that the book does not include a bibliography. I would like to read more about this dark period, but I haven’t been able to locate any other reference materials on the subject. In an obviously well-researched book, I’m at a loss as to why the author would exclude—

[Knock. Knock.]

MORZANT: Who’s there?

BIGFOOT: It’s Bigfoot. Can I come in?

MORZANT: I’m in the middle of a book discussion. What can I do for you?

BIGFOOT: I was walking by your lab and I…um…couldn’t help overhearing…um…you know that THE ENEMY is a fictional story, right?

MORZANT: I don’t understand. What are you saying?

BIGFOOT: I’m saying it’s fiction. It’s not real.

MORZANT: You’re saying that London never experienced a plague that wiped out most of its population?

BIGFOOT: Er…no, I didn’t say that exactly. I’m saying that particular story is totally made up by the author.

MORZANT: Why would he do that?

BIGFOOT: For fun. To entertain his readers.

MORZANT: It’s entertaining to read about humans eating other humans?

BIGFOOT: That’s right.

MORZANT: Interesting. So, there have never been any diseased, ravenous cannibals roaming the streets of London?

BIGFOOT: That’s right. No zombies in London.

MORZANT: Ever?

BIGFOOT: Nope.

MORZANT: How about in Budapest?

BIGFOOT: Nope.

MORZANT: Ypsilanti?

BIGFOOT: No. Zombies aren’t real.

MORZANT: They aren’t?

BIGFOOT: Of course not.

MORZANT: Oh. Then it would seem that Mortimer has needlessly barricaded himself in the biohazard safety cabinet. Would you mind completing this book discussion for me while I go give him the news?

BIGFOOT: Sure, no problem.

[Morzant exits.]

It was the best of times; it was the zombiest of times.

Imagine there are no adults around to tell you what to do, what not to do. You can stay up as late as you want. You can sleep in as long as you like. There is no school. You hang out with your friends day and night.

Nope. No adults bossing you around at all. True, it’s because they’re too busy trying to eat you. But, what did you expect? You can’t have it all.

As Morzant already told you, THE ENEMY takes place in London. The adults have all been transformed by a mysterious illness into cannibalistic monsters. Pockets of survivors, all under the age of sixteen, struggle to survive in a city where food is in short supply and predators—not just of the zombie variety—are everywhere.

One group has been hiding in a grocery store since the outbreak, but they’ve eaten all the food in the store and scavenged as much as possible from the surrounding neighborhoods. Just as it becomes clear that they will have to permanently leave their refuge, they meet a boy who convinces them to journey to Buckingham Palace. He promises them that they will be safe there for all time. Joining forces with another group of survivors, the kids set off on a dangerous trek.

This is a page-turner. You will grow to care about the characters. You will bite your nails as they traverse ominous alleyways and enter seemingly abandoned buildings. You will become increasingly anxious as you realize that none of them—not even your favorite—is safe (curse you, Charlie Higson!). And, probably most importantly, you will get queasy if you try to eat a snack while reading this book. Seriously, folks. Wait an hour after eating before wading into this one.

Suspense, gore, surprises, nods to classic zombie films, and the hint of a sequel…this book has it all.

[Morzant returns.]

MORZANT: Thanks for covering for me.

BIGFOOT: You’re welcome. How’s Mortimer?

MORZANT: Relieved. In fact, he’s eager for me to start reading him the next book. It’s another crazy story made up by some writer with an overactive imagination.

BIGFOOT: What’s the book?

MORZANT: I can’t remember the whole title. Something-Something-Black-Death.

BIGFOOT: Uh, that one might not be fict—er…nevermind. Enjoy.

MORZANT: We’ll see. What passes for entertainment on this planet astounds me.

BIGFOOT: What passes for entertainment on Zeenton?

MORZANT: Combinatorial mathematics, of course.

6 comments:

mouseprints said...

It sounds too chilling and thrilling to miss! This human thanks you for your so exciting recommendation.

Morzant the Alien said...

You’re very welcome.

I’m still at a loss to understand the compulsion to read about these monstrous beings who eat humans. I admit I find myself eagerly awaiting the June 14, 2011 release of the prequel, THE DEAD. The books in the series are first released in the United Kingdom. While I’m currently residing on Earth’s North American continent, my ship could have quickly transported me to a location where THE DEAD was available many months ago. I thought it more prudent to fight the impulse to obtain a copy of the book until I understood my newfound fascination with these fictional beings. That understanding alludes me still; therefore I will justify my reading of THE DEAD this June as essential to my studies of Earth literature. It may be that those studies will require me to travel to the UK next autumn to retrieve a copy of the third book in the series, THE FEAR, rather than wait for its later release in the United States.

mouseprints said...

You are probably wise to curb your Earth trotting impulses, at least until you understand said fascination, but sometimes it's more fun to give in to impulse, especially regarding books. And if it's books AND travel, well...I say all bets are off. And you could TOTALLY justify it as essential Earth literature studies.

(I do wish they'd release those UK titles sooner over here!)

Morzant the Alien said...

I’m intrigued by what you’ve suggested here. Perhaps I could expand my studies of Earth literature to include the lengths at which readers will go to obtain anticipated books. In that case, certainly I’d be bound by scientific integrity to travel whatever distance necessary to retrieve THE FEAR. Yes, very intriguing indeed.

Jan von Harz said...

I am very glad you stopped by my blog because if you hadn't I would not have been totally entertained by this review on The Enemy. this definitely sounds like a book I need to read and share with my middle school students. Thanks.

Morzant the Alien said...

Jan, I still recommend this book, but I feel I should offer a clarification. Recently I had a discussion with a human who informed me that THE ENEMY is not a zombie book. This particular human argued that these particular cannibalistic creatures are merely sick with a disease that makes them crave human flesh as opposed to being corpses who crave human flesh. Apparently I need to study the zombie phenomenon more carefully because I fail to understand the distinction. However, as a scientist I won’t allow my personal reservations to cloud my scientific judgment. Perhaps the book you recommended on your blog, THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES by Ty Drago, will provide me with further understanding of what constitutes a zombie. Your contribution to my research is appreciated.