Elena's Reviews > The Enemy

The Enemy by Charlie Higson
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's review
May 20, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: young-adult, sci-fi, dystopia-apocalyptic, reviewed
Read on May 20, 2011

This book has a pretty great (if not entirely original) premise: A year and a half ago, everyone over 16 contracted a horrible disease that killed almost all the adults and turned the rest into what are essentially zombies. A group of ~50 kids has been making do by turning a Waitrose grocery store into their fortress, but food is becoming scarce, the grown-ups/zombies are becoming bolder, and kids are getting picked off one by one. Then comes word that Buckingham Palace is safe--no grown-ups, a walled yard, and the beginnings of agriculture. But first the kids of Waitrose have to get there through miles of hungry grown-ups, and even if they manage it, Buckingham Palace may not be the paradise it seems.

Sounds pretty good, right? It should have been.

My main problem with this book is that I didn't really connect to the characters at all, an issue that has two sources:
1) The book is written from an omniscient point of view. Not rotating points of view, mind, but true omniscient--the book skips around from one person's thoughts to another on a sentence to sentence basis. And the cast of characters is huge, with 50 Waitrose kids plus all the other folks they bump into. Hell, we even get one or two zombie perspectives. This means that the reader spends so little time with the characters that it's hard to form a connection. I like to crawl inside a character's head and live there, but I couldn't do that with this book.
2) Characters drop like flies. In this setting, it's super realistic to have a character die about every 20 pages, but it had the effect of numbing me. There were so many deaths that none of them really had the emotional impact that they ought to have had, and it also meant that I didn't want to get too attached to any of the characters, because there was about a 25% chance that the character would be dead before the end of the book, if not significantly sooner. In this case, I feel that Higson's emphasis on realism came at the expense of good storytelling.

Another problem I had is that I couldn't make heads or tails of the disease itself. I'm no biologist, but I am a fantasist, and worlds have to adhere to an internal logic. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the internal logic was here. (view spoiler)

I really love this sort of premise (one of my favorite books as a pre-teen was The Girl Who Owned a City), and Higson has written some really deliciously creepy scenes. I'm a little bit curious about how he'll develop things in the next book, but the omniscient POV that prevented me from really getting into this book will likely prevent me from picking up the second.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Hannah (new)

Hannah It's actually everyone over 14...

Evan seriously! Two stars! One of the best books ever!!

Elena Well, Evan, that's the wonderful thing about books: everyone likes different ones. This book didn't appeal to me as a reader, for reasons I explained in my review. But I can see why other people, who enjoy different things in their fiction, might like it. People are allowed to have differing opinions!

Elena Thanks, Cillian! Yeah, when I read, I'm looking for a character who can become my imaginary best friend. If a book doesn't provide that protagonist who I like and get to know really well and form a reader bond with, I'm generally not interested. But this book would be great for someone who reads more for plot, action, or spine-tingliness (totally a term).

Evan I know that people are allowed to have different opinions. I guess your right.

Saskia You are talking about "realism" but how in any way is this situation realistic anyway. The reason that the characters may get bumped off so quickly is because it's a dangerous situation. The reason it jumps between different POV's is because otherwise, how would you understand how
A. People get affected by the situation
B. how adults' mind have actually deteriorated so far that they become child like and zombie like
C. Peoples EMOTIONS!

Elena Boy, I had no idea I was writing such a controversial review!

The reason that the characters may get bumped off so quickly is because it's a dangerous situation.

Yes, that's what I said in the review, more or less. I just said that the frequent deaths made it hard for me to connect to the characters.

As for the POV-jumping, I've read plenty of books that could do A-C in your list just fine without using the omniscient point of view (and I'm not sure point B was at all necessary to the telling of this particular story). I don't mind POV jumping between chapters (though I prefer to stick to just one or two central characters), but when it's practically every other sentence, it really bothers me.

Just my opinion. Obviously, this was the right book for a lot of people. It just wasn't right for me.

Shanelle I have to say I COMPLETELY agree with you. I felt as if there was no real protgonist to the story. As if one main character was missing... In the begining I could see a connection Arran, but well we all know how that ended up. this had immense potencial to be great but it did not keep me up late reading because in all honesty I didn't care whether or not most of the characters died. That being said I will still read the rest of the books in the series.

Mary I also totally agree with this review. Not only did the omniscience and the quantity of characters prevent me from ever feeling invested, but after a couple key character relationships were nixed early on, there were almost no bonds between the characters themselves. If they hardly care about one another - why should I? Mostly I just felt apathetic.

Stefani I agree completely!! I have no real idea who I would name as the main character and with so many major players dying off I just kind of gave up on the rest. If you need a GREAT zombie fix, read the Rot & Ruin series.... love them!!

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