Spoiler-free Snippet: READ WITH CAUTION
The Girl With All The Gifts, by MR Carey, is basically zombie lit clothed as a dystopian sci-fi. It is somewhat refreshingly different than most, even if it does manage to still include the military and people making bad choices. The story follows Melanie, a special child living in a government facility. You quickly find out that she is different; she is one of the hungries that plague humanity and have all but taken over the world. I enjoyed the cause for the zombie plague and following Melanie’s growth, but many aspects of the book were mediocre. The writing style is a little odd as well, perhaps because of its British author’s background in comic books. In all, I’m not too sure why it won all the awards it did.
Here, There Be Spoilers
I decided to pick up this novel based on a recommendation from a guy that works with my boyfriend. The story begins from the point of view of a young girl, Melanie, who tells the reader about her life. It is quickly evident that she isn’t a normal child and things are not as they seem. The fact that she’s a hungry (the book’s word for zombies) and living in a government research facility is revealed soon enough, which is very interesting.
The book quickly devolves into basic action, with characters acting predictably and things going as you might expect. This isn’t to say the book didn’t have a few interesting ideas in it, though. I enjoyed the use of the Cordyceps fungus as the cause of the zombie plague. It actually exists and is terrifying in real life, so that hint of realism added in was a nice touch. The idea of the surviving outliers of society repurposing the hungries to fight for them was pretty interesting and what I think could potentially be a legitimate scenario.
Melanie is very intelligent, and truly seems to be a child with a creepy attachment to her teacher. I felt that the thought processes she explored while learning that she, in fact, was a hungry and dealing with the overwhelming hunger when she could smell those she was with were well done. Knowing that you don’t want to eat the people you’re with (mostly) and having to choke back an incredible urge to do so is a pretty compelling inner conflict. She’s also ruthless with her logic, which is refreshing. At the end of the book, she manages to neatly secure the world for herself and those like her, while still probably following the biological imperatives set forth by the fungus.
One issue I had with the book was the word “hungries” to describe the zombies. It just seemed silly, like what a small child might call them, but not the government and adults. It also caused some confusion when one of the characters would refer to Melanie as “the hungry girl.” Is she hungry? Is she a hungry? What meaning are you using here?
Two of the main characters, Justineau and Caldwell, have little to no growth over the entirety of the book. Caldwell remains the scientist that doesn’t care about morals so long as she finds the cure, and Justineau is the tortured soul making up for what she’s done in the past. It was satisfying to see their ends, but not in quite the way that they truly happened. The token military man does grow, however, and ends up becoming one of the better characters, in my opinion.
I liked the ending, though I question some of the soundness of it, especially set against the author’s adherence to specifically naming scientific equipment and devices previously. Too often, these stories end with the dawn of humanity recovering, just as it was. A cure will be found, or there is a place where everyone can be safe, or they find a magical grove of zombie-exterminating unicorns. Here, we see humanity surviving as a symbiote to another dominant organism–the fungus. Melanie and those like her will ostensibly populate the world, though you have to ignore how the hungries manage to have sex and rear children. Even extremely hearty human children are required to have some level of care. Perhaps the fungus keeps them in some sort of cocoon until it is time?
Even with all those questions, I enjoyed the ending of the book. It wasn’t a bad read, though it probably could have lost about 50 to 100 pages and been a bit better. I wouldn’t call this great for dystopian readers, but if you like zombie lit or post apocalyptic societal stuff, you might enjoy this one. If nothing else, it was a change from a lot of other stuff along these lines that i’ve read. I’d rate this as a READ WITH CAUTION.
I mean, really. What’s wrong with zombies being called zombies?