The Fallen is book #5 in Charlie Higson’s The Enemy Series. Although this is the fifth book, the events occur 28 seconds after the end of The Enemy (#1), and are concurrent with events in The Sacrifice (#4).
I don’t always get to read books in order. When I wind up with an out-of-sequence book to review, the first challenge is to see if the book gives me enough backstory and context to let the novel stand on its own. In the opening chapter, a girl called Maxie is on the move through the streets of London, celebrating escape from Buckingham Palace. She’s with a pack of other youth and children called, “The Holloway kids.” It’s a perfect introduction to the characters, offering a bit about each without dumping too much information at once.
Maxie is a natural leader who cares about the kids around her. She sees their strengths first, and understands how every one of them contribute to their overall safety. She’s joined by Blue, the young man who leads the Morrisons gang, and it’s clear that their teamwork was the key to freeing them from the palace.
“It felt good to be with her friends. The world had turned cold and cruel, and friendship helped keep them warm. It was more important than ever to help each other and work together.”
Their intention is to get to the Natural History Museum, where another group of children have a secure place to live. Once they arrive, the Holloway kids find the museum under attack, overrun with “sickos,” the diseased, zombie-like grown-ups that roam London looking for children to kill and eat.
The Museum crew includes the would-be-scientist, Einstein, and other intelligent older kids who are studying the disease. Their plan to find medicines to help them survive, and the equipment needed to learn more about the disease, leads to a secret kept for over 15 years.
Of course, safety and survival is their ultimate goal. There are so many stories about adults in this scenario that it’s refreshing to read one where the fate of the world is in the hands of children. Yes, they make stupid mistakes. I cringed through several scenes, knowing their decisions were dangerous and foolish. The results were often tragically predictable.
Don’t get attached to too many characters. Higson kills people with wave after wave of puss-spewing, eyeball-bursting horror. His monsters are gloriously gross, whether they are bursters, diseased feral dogs, or the grotesquely disgusting “mothers and fathers” that hunt the children.
My issues with the novel are few. At first, I was put off by the number of chapters. Staring at a table of contents with 96 chapters made me wilt. Was it really that long? No, not really. The chapters are very short, some just a few pages, and it made me wonder if this was a device to manipulate the pacing of the story. When things slowed down, or when characters got a few hours of rest, the inevitable surprise attack was predictable and repetitive. When a group gets attacked by something other than “sickos”, I was relieved that it was something different, until the “sickos” showed up on cue.
The Fallen is a good book. I liked it. It was a quick read, because I had a hard time putting it down. Thanks to my eReader, I don’t need a flashlight anymore when I’m up way past my bedtime trying to squeeze in just one more chapter. That said, I know I’m not the intended audience for this series. I’m certain that the YA audience it was written for will have a much different opinion than I do.
I look forward to going back into the series, to catch up on the story that precedes this one, and find out what’s going on in other parts of the city.
I recommend this book for people who want a different perspective on survival post-zombie. The characters in this novel are fully-realized people with their own faults, fears, and hangups. Although they are children, they see and understand far more than many adults give them credit for. Some are brutal, some are kind, and some are tragically stupid.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Originally published at: The Bookie Monster