"The Fear" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Puffin Books
Written by Charlie Higson
2011, 480 pages, Fiction
Released on September 15th, 2011
The Fear, the third book in Charlie Higson's “Enemy” series (The Enemy and The Dead being the first two), takes place just days before the end of The Dead. The novel's opening sets the tone of things to come, with the first chapter introducing “The Collector”, a man who collects toys (read: children) to play with. Unfortunately, the toys he collects aren't built very well, so he always ends up breaking and then eating them.
If you've never read any of the books in the “Enemy” series, think The Lord of the Flies meets 28 Days Later. A strange disease has turned everyone over the age of 14 into a cannibalistic lunatic and the kids are left fending for themselves. Banding together in various groups around London, they must fight to survive in a world where nothing is safe. Think about it, with no adults, who can set a broken arm? Dispense medication for pneumonia? Run the power plants that provide electricity? It's not just the implications of a world without adults that is terrifying, it's the fact that the grownups want to kill you and eat you.
The Fear follows DogNut and Courtney leading a group of children from the safety of the Tower of London to search for the friends they lost at major bridge battle in The Dead. Fighting their way across London, the gang finds old friends, meets new ones and battles not just sickos, but other kids as well. And by the end, everything comes back full circle to The Enemy.
Like his prior two novels in the series, Higson pulls no punches with his characters. Some live, some die, and it doesn't matter what their status is in the book. At one point, he dispatches a character so effortlessly and with such a lack of fanfare, my mouth was agape. Now you see them, now you don't. It's brilliantly done as it shows just how truly dangerous a world these kids live in. No one is safe and anything can happen, so you’d better be prepared for it. This capability to destroy a character, a kid no less, regardless of whether it's a main one, a loved one, a hated one, etc., is what I love the best about Higson's writing. He doesn't cheat the reader by letting the good guy win every time, because sometimes, just like in real life, they don't.
Unlike the other books is the development of the adults. Before now, Higson never spent too much time on providing a backstory or what was going on in the mind of any of the infected grownups, but here he elaborates on a few of them. There's the aforementioned Collector, who is downright terrifying in his sickness, a mysterious female who has just enough wits left to start amassing a gang of other adults, and the most dangerous of all, King George, who has bigger plans than the woman. While she has a gang, he's building an army. And the kids are the enemy.
Higson has written The Enemy, The Dead, and The Fear in such a way that you can jump into any of the books at any time because he provides enough backstory throughout that you won't be lost or confused about what's going on. However, I recommend if you are going to read these (and I highly suggest you do), read them in order. Even though you don't necessarily have to, all three are tied together so tightly that it adds a lot more enjoyment to the read.
In my reviews of The Enemy and The Dead, I gave them two grades, one for young adults and one for adults. The reason for this is the books are aimed at the former. However, I'm stopping that with The Fear because it's irrelevant if it's written for youths or for adults, what matters is if it's a well written, enjoyable story. The Fear is exactly that, a crazy journey through an infected London that you don't really want to end. Pick it up.