So my lovely book geeks, here is another great book review (if I do say so myself). This month we are going to look at The Girl with all the Gifts, written by the incredibly talented M. R. Carey (it is not Mariah!).
It is a bit of a science fiction novel, and I know that the genre, and sub-genres have had a rejuvenation over the past couple of years. From Vampires and werewolves to zombies, it is hard to tell new stories in an original way to capture your audience when the genre is so saturated. There are a few that stand out, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which is a new film starring Matt Smith), the TV show The Walking Dead, Warm Bodies and World War Z (an interesting read, and a great Brad Pitt movie).
The Girl with all the Gifts manages to tell the zombie tale in a thrilling, original and emotionally powerful way…
The horror of the unknown is more frightening than any horror you can understand
“Melanie thinks: when your dreams come true, your true has moved. You’ve already stopped being the person who had the dreams, so it feels more like a weird echo of something that already happened to you a long time ago.”
“You don’t want to get attached to them,’ he says. ‘You know what they’re here for.”
“A big refugee camp governed by real terror and artificially pumped-up optimism”
Melanie is a 10 year old girl who loves school, loves her friends and loves to read books, every morning she waits in her cell to be collected by Sarge, who holds a gun towards her while two of his workers chain her to a wheelchair. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. She lives in an under ground bunker with around 20 other children her age, Melanie is very intelligent and loves her classes with Miss Justineau the best, there she learns stories and her favourite are Greek myths, especially the one about Pandora’s Box. She loves Miss Justineau and tells her all her secrets, when she can, she tells her about all the stuff she wants to do when she grows up and is out of the bunker, she doesn’t understand why Miss Justineau looks sad. Melanie isn’t sure about Sarge, but she is sure he doesn’t like her, as well as the scientist Catherine Caldwell, who only shows up to pick one of her friends and then takes them away to a place and never brings them back. But all she really wants to do is spend as much time with Miss Justineau as she can, she loves her the most.
In an age of rust, she comes up stainless steel
“It’s not just Pandora who had that inescapable flaw. It seems like everyone has been built in a way that sometimes makes them do wrong and stupid things.”
“Every adult grew from a kid who beat the odds. But at different times, in different places, the odds have been appallingly steep”
Helen Justineau knows the kids are on the base to help with the cure for the hungries, she knows not to get attached, but little Melanie breaks her heart, with all her dreams of the future. Tests are done in the classes to see how the kids respond emotionally, retain information and understanding and Melanie is a high functioning, genius level 10 year old. Helen reports to Cathrine Caldwell, and Caldwell wants to find the cure by any means possible, Sarge tries to tell Helen not to get attached because Caldwell wants to open this genius level 10 year old girls skull to understand more. And then all hell breaks lose, and Miss Justineau, Sarge, Caldwell and Melanie have to work together, like a dysfunctional family.
You can’t save people from the world. There’s nowhere else to take them.
“It’s like before the Breakdown people used to spend their whole lives making cocoons for themselves out of furniture and ornaments and books and toys and pictures…As though they hoped they’d be born out of the cocoon as something else.”
“She’s in the club. The hopelessly-outnumbered-and-surrounded-by-monsters club.”
“The hungry kid smiles, as though the cascade of waste paper is a firework display. She squints into the sun to follow them as they fly.”
This isn’t just about the story of why and how the world ended, it is one of the best parental love stories I have ever read. But don’t get me wrong here, the book is packed with action, suspense, near death calls, with mad scientists, trigger happy guards and zombie kids, with a massive reversal twist of an ending, you will love this thrilling ride. Carey’s writing style is unique and character driven, the well thought out and emotive characters hook you into the story and you will laugh, cry and get angry at these fascinating people. The parental love story is about a little girl desperately craving a family, the love and protection that comes from parental figures in our lives. And an adult that desperately wants to fill that role, it is about how to figure that out and learn to trust each other. You will fall in love with this book, with these fantastic characters, it is a testament to M. R. Carey’s talent and skill, not every writer can make you become so emotionally involved with his characters, especially this gorgeous, intelligent, undead 10 year old girl.
I know you are thinking it is kind of like Warm Bodies, but only in the subject matter of a high functioning and thoughtful degenerate beings, and that is where the comparison ends. The Girl with all the Gifts will speak to all generations, a family love is a powerful story, the protection of a child, no matter the circumstances. Even if zombies aren’t your bag, please take a leap of faith and give it a go (or wait for the movie, it’s out this year) I promise you will not be left wanting.
Happy Reading My Loyal Book Geeks!