One minute, Sam and his friends at school are sitting around in lessons. The next, everyone aged 15 and above has vanished. As you'd expect, panic ensues. With no parents, teachers, or even older brothers and sisters to tell them what to do, and all communication with the world outside their small town cut off, Sam and his friends Astrid, Quinn and Edilio have to try and calm the rest of the kids and work out what to do next.
This isn't the first strange thing to have happened to Sam. Months ago, he changed in a very odd way. A way that he'd never told anyone about. While the rest of them are definitely scared, at least they know they can't have been responsible for what happened.
Sam's not so sure...
I barely ever read sci-fi but picked this up in Waterstones' earlier today, was hooked by the end of the first chapter, and finished it in about six hours despite it's 560 pages or so length. (And I had to briefly stop reading at the halfway point to order the sequel!) Michael Grant creates a scary but totally plausible picture of what happens to a society when it's cut off from the outside world by an impregnable barrier and the kids are left to fend for themselves - especially when some of those kids have changed in weird and terrifying ways. He creates a couple of the most memorable villains of recent years, multi-layered heroes - especially Quinn, a personal favourite of mine as he has to cope with his jealousy of those with powers, his fear of the villains, and his dislike of Edilio, who Sam turns to more and more instead of Quinn. We also get an incredible supporting cast of characters, with Mary, who struggles with her own dark secret while frantically trying to look after the pre-school kids, and Albert, who tries to calmly keep the local McDonalds running so there's at least one bit of normality left in the world, being particularly strong.
Oh, and the first chapter starts with the ominous '299 hours 54 minutes' which we quickly find out is a timer counting down to a moment which will change everything, so the intensity cranks up and up as we get further and further into the book and the timer relentlessly counts down...
One warning - this is NOT for young kids or the easily disturbed. The back of the book warns 'Contains scenes of cruelty and some violence', which if anything is an understatement. Readers likely to be distressed by death and epic fighting should look away - but as long as you can cope with that, this is a very high recommendation, particularly to fans of Stephen King, Lord of the Flies, and TV series such as Lost and Heroes.
I can't wait to read the sequel Hunger and the rest of what is set to be a 6 book series.
As well as the sequels to this book, another sci-fi novel with a similar idea is the superb Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer.