The Dead of Night - John Marsden

Our poor heroes aren’t so plucky and full of bravado anymore, not since Corrie was shot in the back and Kevin took her to the hospital. But the gang decide they can’t sit around forever: they need more supplies for living in Hell, and they want to see if Corrie’s OK, and they need to take some action against the army that invaded their land, took over their homes, and took their families prisoner.


This book is much slower than Tomorrow, When the War Began. Our teen heroes are despondent, depressed and dejected. They crave adult company so they can go back to being kids. They want the stupid war to be over. There’s a lot of sitting around being bored and then trying to plan the next operation because really, what else are you supposed to do? They end up going for a look on the other side of Hell, leaving Chris behind because he’s in an alcohol-fuelled depression and they don’t have the wisdom, patience, or fortitude to look after him when there are bigger issues like how are they going to help Australia win the war?


When they do come across a group of adults and are thrown back into the roles of untrusted delinquent children, they realise they are much braver and smarter than their so-called ‘grown-ups’ and decide to take matters into their own hands. They’re still a smart bunch of kids, and their domestic terrorism if fuelled by the basic boyish knowledge of how to destroy things.


Character progression is not so much the focus of this filler book as character studies – each character has their own view on murder and killing in wartime. While the character don’t so much change over the course of the novel, their individual characteristics are solidified. Ellie, Lee and Homer become murderers while Fi is targeted for rape and Robyn holds on to her religious belief to guide her. Eventually they all come around and manage to decide that they need to do whatever it takes to cause trouble for the invaders-turned-colonisers because the war’s not over and the tide may be turning.


Ellie and Lee take their relationship further, and there’s a lot of angsting about that, too. Homer and Fi seemed to have cooled right off. As for Robyn, well, she wouldn’t do anything if it were the end of the world, would she? And as for Chris… I mean, it’s excellent being inside Ellie’s head, she’s such a realistic character and her narration really sucks you in and makes you believe you’re living and breathing what she’s experiencing. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that she’s ‘writing’ all this down as her own story, especially when she manages to quote page and page of perfect dialogue, but that’s a suspension of disbelief that has to be employed under the circumstances.


Like I said above, this is really more of a filler novel. Sure, in the end our heroes get a move on and cause the destruction suitable for the climax, but it’s after a lot of running for their lives and debating murder in wartime. It’s still a good book, just a bit of a surprise after the nearly non-stop action of the first book.