Book Review: ‘The Enemy’ by Charlie Higson

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“The Enemy” is an apocalyptic young adult novel reminiscent of “28 Days Later.” The premise is that roughly a year ago everyone over 15 years old became infected and started killing and eating everyone younger than 16 years old.

Arran is the leader of a medium-sized group of kids holed up in a London grocery store. He is not the best hunter or fighter but he is the best at getting the others to do what needs to be done to survive.

The story starts off with several exciting fight scenes. Several characters are killed before we get to know them. One character is taken, to be eaten later, and Arran is wounded so grievously that it is apparent that he will die soon. This was an interesting twist. He is the most interesting and sympathetic character in the story and in fact continues to be important even after his death.

When the story finally begins, several plots spring up simultaneously: the children notice that the adults are acting strangely; Small Sam, the kidnapped snack, escapes from his adult captors; Jester shows up to invite our group to move into Buckingham Palace with another, smaller group; and our groups main rivals join with our heroes to go to the palace to help create a new Utopia.

Jester leads the now larger group through London toward the palace. They have to face a monkey attack along the way. Arran runs amok during the monkey attack, leaves the group and is shot by the leader of another group of kids roaming the London streets. The arrow pierces his chest but doesn’t kill him right away. The kids hang about until he dies.

The archers join the larger group headed for Buckingham Palace, though there is some bad blood because they killed Arran even though A — It was na accident; and B — Arran was going to die from his wounds anyway.

When the group finally reaches the palace, they are greeted by a Little Lord Fauntleroy type who is in charge there. They don’t trust him much and it turns out they shouldn’t. He just wants them to be his mercenaries to clear out another group of kids which refused his offer of friendship and which keeps destroying his gardens.

Our group clears out the group by shaming then killing their leader. Then our group leaves the palace group to their own devices despite the palace group having kept the infected Royals as proof of their legitimacy. The book ends with our group heading back into the streets.

In the meantime, a side story revolves around Small Sam who has a series of adventures escaping from one group of adults only to be chased or cornered by another group and another. He meets two non-infected adults in the Tubes who are collecting young people to eat because there isn’t much else to eat in London. He is abetted in his escape by the Kid who is the most interesting character in the story by dint of his slang.

Small Sam and The Kid make one discovery. When they are followed into the sunlight by one of Sam’s captors, the captor immediately succumbs to the infection and melts into a puddle of pus.

Small Sam and The Kid don’t know how to get about London and end up being invited to join a band of youth holed up in the Tower of London, where we leave them at the end of the book.

“The Enemy” is the first of a five — so far — part story, which explains but does not excuse the unfinished feel to the book.

The premise is kind of silly. The author offers no explanation. There is no exploration about what happens on one sixteenth birthday. There is no resolution to any of the story lines. While I enjoyed this book enough to finish it, I doubt I will read any of the sequels.

This review was submitted by Dan Mason, of Williamsport.

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