Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Fear, by Charlie Higson

The Fear, the Enemy, Charlie HigsonThe third part of Charlie Higson's The Enemy series sees the small, isolated pockets of survival beginning to forge links and communicate with one another, making allegiances and deals. The Fear marks the beginning of the rebuilding of something like a working society. Building a society doesn't happen overnight though, even when the social architects aren't being pursued and murdered by cannibalistic, disease rotten adults...

Ed and Dognut, a main and a peripheral character from the last book have created a safe haven at the Tower of London under the military guidance of Jordan Hordern, the War Game obsessive from the IW museum. Separated from the other half of the Bus/Imperial War groups in the Fire and the battle of Vauxhall Bridge, The Dead ended with them fleeing a group of Sickos by floating an abandoned pleasure cruiser across the Thames. Ed, who it turns out is something of a natural leader has looked after the group with Dognut as his friend and second in command.  A year after the blaze and the battle, Dognut is getting restless and beginning to wonder what happened to Brooke, Wiki, Justin and the rest of the group that managed to navigate the chaotic and panic stricken crush across Vauxhall Bridge.

Deciding that he wants to be some kind of hero and knowing that it will never happen as second in command at the Tower, Dognut launches an expedition to explore what remains of London and look for his friends. He takes along some of the other Tower kids that have become separated from friends or family. He also takes Courtney, whose real reason for setting out on this mission is her feelings for Dognut. Their journey takes them to various London landmarks turned settlements and their progress is watched closely by several often unobserved groups, some friendlier than others. It's clear though that there is some kind of news grapevine in the world- a way to exchange information.

Meanwhile, King David the dictator at the Palace has decided that in order to take over the whole of London, he needs allies and he needs fighters. David sends out the Jester, a couple of younger kids and Shadowman, a mysterious drifter to go and bring some new recruits back to the palace. A large chunk of the novel is dedicated to the wanderings of Shawdowman- his observations and discoveries about the Sickos that still roam the streets are neither heartening nor pleasant. David sets about getting his allies in his own way- mostly by making promises he has no intention of keeping.

This book really demonstrates the differences in the lifestyles chosen and maintained by various groups. There's the Houses of Parliament that elect a leader and vote on everything, the Natural History Museum that dedicate themselves to research and understanding, the Military set up at the Tower, Buckingham Palace that's run as a dictatorship and various renegade bands of savages and/or mercenary hunters. It's almost like London has become a tiny planet, a whole entity made up of small, independently ruled countries that need to cooperate that are subject to various differences in culture and management.

Taking place roughly at the same time as The Enemy the chronologies of both books collide so many of the events depicted in The Fear are quite familiar, we might just see it from a different angle or from the perspective of a different character. We find out more about the mysterious Jester, the patchwork coat kid that enticed the Waitrose group to Buckingham Palace. We find out who the silent girl in the infirmary at the Palace is and what she's been through. We find out more about the remaining adults and what they are evolving into inside and outside of the No Go Zone.

This third book continues to expand on the themes that have ran through the series; the corrupting influence of power, the disease of unchecked tyranny and gang mentality, the 'art' of politics and negotiation, the desire for power, dealing with loss, fear, guilt, responsibility. It truly is a brilliant story that provides loads to think about. There are definitely parallels with the real world, particularly the behaviour of previously ordinary people when they realise that nobody is watching, nobody is threatening to hold them to account. There are more brilliant characters, breath-taking prose and loads of suspense and as ever. 

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