I’ve been trying to get back into reading recently so I figured a re-read of one of my favourite books was in order.
I first read The Girl With All The Gifts a few years ago, it’s recently been made into a film, I’ve not seen the film yet but from the casting, I’d say things went slightly wrong. Anyway today I’m talking about the book!
I reviewed another book by M. R. Carey a little while ago, in this post.
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.
When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.
The book is set in the post apocolyptic future of Britain, a virus has spread sending the population fleeing from the Hungries – zombie like people infected by a fungus that slowly takes over their body driving their insatiable need for cannibalism.
The book starts with 10 year old Melanie in a military bunker full of soldiers and scientists, along with group of other children, Melanie attends daily lessons. Melanie encounters a number of different adults who teach the children lessons but none like Miss Justineau, Melanie loves her, she lives for the days that Miss Justineau is teaching. Some of the children are taken away and never return.
We soon learn that Melanie is very special, she isn’t like all the other children, she’s a genius.
A few chapters in and things go wrong. Really wrong and Melanie, Miss Justineau, the rather unpleasant Dr Caldwell, Sergeant Parks and Private Gallagher find themselves on the run from the hungries and the Junkers (a group of survivors who seem intent on making everyones life a misery). Their goal? To find Beacon – their last hope.
Melanie considers. Is it okay? This is a scary subject, so it’s a relief in some ways to let it drop. But the question is hanging over her like a weight, and she can’t be content until it’s answered. Finally, uncertainly, she nods. Because she’s found a way of looking at it that makes it not so bad at all – a thought that’s lying at the bottom of the sadness and the worry like hope lying underneath all the terrible things in Pandora’s box. From now on, every day will be a Miss Justineau day.
Out in the world Melanie soon realises how dangerous she is.
Now I don’t want to reveal too much else of the story because it really is well worth the read. It is full of twists and turns and insights in what it means to be human. It is a new take on your classic zombie novel. Think along the lines of Haters by David Moody. The last few chapters are intense and you won’t be able to put it down until you have devoured the whole book.
It is well written, thought provoking and thrilling. M.R. Carey has done an outstanding job with this novel. Melanie evolves through the story, putting all the learning she did in her bunker classroom out into the world, her curiosity and fascination with a landscape she is seeing the first time is heartbreaking. For Private Gallagher who grew up after the infection hit and doesn’t remember the world before, it’s a learning experience for him too thrown into a war he is terrified of.
Sergeant Parks is your classic grizzly old soldier, mistrusting of everyone and everything especially Melanie and lumbered with civillians who don’t seem to realise the dangers that Melanie poses.
I hated Dr Caldwell, desperately trying to search for a cure with a cold and scientific mind, the development of her character is so good and the last few chapters are perfect. Miss Justineau as Melanie’s teacher and saviour – not so much in the physical sense but in the sense that she sees Melanie’s potential and helps her to flourish.
I genuinely cannot recommend this book enough. It stays away from the classic zombie survival genre and instead casually wanders into a philosophical debate before jumping head-first into a debate on social ethics. Wonderful, brilliant stuff.
Get out and by this book now!
Have you read The Girl With All The Gifts? What did you think? Get in touch below.