Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: The Girl With All The Gifts, by M. R. Carey

Title: The Girl With All The Gifts
Author: M. R. Carey
Publisher: Orbit
Release date: January 2014
Genre: Horror

Description: 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.

My thoughts: I wouldn't normally pick up a horror book, particularly something with zombies in, but after hearing Mike Carey read the first chapters of this book at an event, I knew I wanted to read the rest of the story. It starts with Melanie going to her daily classes. She sits in her wheelchair with her neck, arms, and legs strapped to it, so she can only face straight ahead. She knows that the classroom is somewhere far from Beacon, the place where everyone lives now, to stay safe from the Hungries. She knows that when Sergeant Parks wipes off his arm and holds it in front of her classmate, the boy snaps at his arm like a wild creature, and she can smell something wonderful in the room. Sometimes she asks her favourite teacher about how long they will stay in the classroom, or what she'll do when she grows up, but that makes the teacher sad.

Then the Hungries break in to the compound, and Melanie, Sergeant Parks, her teacher, and some others flee. They're heading towards Beacon, but no one has been able to get a radio signal from Beacon for months. So maybe they're creeping through zombie infested English countryside towards nothing. But they have to try.

I found the part of the story set in the classroom really interesting, seeing the life Melanie had, and the sort of thing the humanity of the book was doing to try to find a cure for the zombie plague. When they leave the compound, it becomes a lot creepier. It's a very 'Walking Dead' sort of environment, very quiet, with every little noise putting the characters and me reading on edge. The tension builds as they go from the countryside into first a small town, and then the outskirts of London. M. R. Carey moves between the different characters to tell the story, and by seeing from different stances, you gradually get a clearer picture of what happened with the spread of the plague, and the things the government did to try to fight it. The characters pass big craters in the roads where the government dropped bombs, and cross a swathe of land that's been burnt away to nothing from where they tried using fire to stop it. Everything seems like it could have happened, and even the route of the virus itself is something believable, which I enjoyed.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend 'The Girl With All The Gifts' for fans of zombie stories. It's an interesting look at what lengths some people might go to to 'cure' something, and how we deal with outsiders, people who are different from what we know. Melanie's innocence and intelligence combine to make her an interesting character to tell the story, and her gradual realisation about her background and how she can be more than just the girl in the wheelchair is a journey that sticks with you.

I give M. R. Carey's 'The Girl With All The Gifts' 7 out of 10.



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