Not every gift is a blessing. 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. Melanie is a very special girl.
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Look, I don’t really like many zombie stories. There could quite possibly be about 10 books, movies or TV shows coming out with zombies as the main attraction, and I can count the number of them that have actually interested me on one hand – if that hand were missing a couple fingers. My point is, The Girl with All the Gifts is a fantastic take on the zombie story that for my money, surpasses a great many of them.
By the way, if this book sounds like something you’d be into, I would stop reading this and go read the book—lest ye be spoiled.
The Girl with All the Gifts is a story about five unwilling participants in a road trip to salvation. There’s a 10-year-old girl, Melanie, with a genius intellect and several surprises up her sleeve. There’s Helen Justineau, a very conflicted teacher of ‘special’ children (including Melanie). Caroline Caldwell is a pragmatic-to-a-fault biological researcher studying the infected. And finally there’s Sgt Eddie Parks and his subordinate Private Kieran Gallagher, a hard-nosed vet and a greener-than-grass naive soldier, respectively.
Their journey brings them to some grim locations where they meet some interesting folks (most of whom don’t have much to say). And like the fungus that has destroyed civilization as they knew it, they, for better or worse, begin to grow on each other.
Despite my distaste for most zombie (or zombie-esque) stories due to a pretty severe over-saturation, The Girl with All the Gifts really hit the spot. M. R. Carey’s characterization was superb. I really appreciated the detail. You get a real sense of each main character’s fears, desires and the sometimes-off-putting quirks that make them human. Which is an excellent bit of contrast in a story about humans that are no longer human, and where the line is that determines that. Is it enough to say someone is human that they can have a conversation with you despite the fact that their body is basically being reanimated by a parasite?
The most intriguing aspect of the book that really captured my attention was the interesting narration point of view changes. Each chapter points the camera at a particular character and we get see things play out from their perspective. We also get to dive into their psyche, and learn a little bit more about how they see the world around them.
While the set may not be super original, the players and the story they tell are fascinating and riveting. If you could only read one post-apocalyptic book about an infection turning people into flesh-eating monsters, you could do a whole lot worse than The Girl with All the Gifts.