Title: The Girl with All the Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
“Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
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 loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.”
I went into this book completely blind and with no expectations other than being highly intrigued by the premise. I’m glad of this because I’m pretty sure had I known it was a zombie novel I would likely have never picked it up. Not that I have anything against zombies per se; I’m a big fan of them in film and TV form, it’s just not really my genre of choice when it comes to what I choose to take to bed with me. So that this turned out to be a zombie novel came as a complete surprise (despite what I now see as rather obvious hints in the blurb) but a good one. It’s always refreshing to be introduced to something new and unexpected and not only was this a foray into a new genre for me but it presents an exciting alternative perspective to the traditional zombie narrative.
Unlike your traditional zombie novel, The Girl with All the Gifts considers its dystopian future from a more philosophical standpoint, raising questions about the definition, or redefinition, of humanity. The story unfolds through the eyes of Melanie, a child held prisoner for reasons unknown. The opening of this story is fantastic and I was thoroughly engrossed. The mystery of Melanie and her classmates’ situation is slowly revealed with mounting tension and intrigue. Sadly I felt the story lost some momentum once it delved closer to the realms of the more traditional zombie narrative and I found the middle section a real slog to get through despite Melanie’s engaging and innocent perspective. For me the rest of the story, although well-written and tense throughout, could not live up to the initial strength and intrigue of the opening act.
I am still not entirely convinced the zombie genre is for me although I am open to being persuaded otherwise. Although not wholly blown away by this book, I certainly enjoyed it enough that I will keep an eye out for other books by M.R. Carey.