Monday, 2 June 2014

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

Pros: thought provoking, fascinating characters, interesting premise, tight prose


Melanie loves the story of Pandora.  She loves attending Miss Justineau’s class, where she heard the legend.  She doesn’t love Sergeant Parks, who sometimes makes Miss Justineau look sad, or Dr. Cauldwell, who’s responsible for some of her classmates going away and never coming back.  She likes her routine, and when that routine changes, all of their lives are irrevocably altered.

This is a post-apocalyptic story with zombies (called hungries) that will feel very familiar.  But Carey’s prose and storytelling ability makes it a brilliant addition to the subgenres.

The book alternates between several viewpoints but starts with Melanie, explaining her day, her week, her life.  She’s such an intelligent girl and the author manages to explain so much of what’s happening - and what’s wrong in the world - by her observations of her normal life.  Pay close attention, as there’s a lot of detail, with certain things being inferred rather than told outright.

I loved the rivalry between Miss Justineau and Dr. Cauldwell, both of whom believe very strongly that they’re in the right about the issues they face, and it’s hard at times to say they aren’t, even when their points of view are opposite.  There are some great thought provoking moments, particularly around Dr. Cauldwell’s work and Melanie’s coming of age.  Even Sergeant Parks has some introspection as he questions the experiments he’s been helping.

The book is definitely geared more for suspense than horror, though there are some horrifying scenes.  The ending too, will remind readers of a memorable horror novel.  The real question of the book lies in whether Dr. Cauldwell will find a cure for the hungries, and if the means she uses justify the ends she’s trying to achieve.

The story starts slow in order to really introduce the characters and the world before things get messy.  The prose is tight, and the story, while not fast paced, is highly compelling.  It’s a brilliant novel.

Out June 10.

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