The Girl with All the Gifts by M R Carey
I finished reading The Girl with All the Gifts on Monday after picking it up on Sunday! It was intense and gripping and I certainly had no idea what I was in for when I picked it up. I’ll start off by saying that throughout the story the central character, Melanie, loves Greek mythology. She is particularly drawn to the story of Pandora and her box which is very fitting because reading this book was in a small way like opening Pandora’s box. I had no idea what to expect going in and in fact went into this with totally the wrong expectations. (I was thinking the girl with all the gifts must have some sort of super powers for example). To be honest, for the first few pages, as I started to realise what was going on, I had visions of putting the book down, seriously I did! Not because it was badly written but more because I wasn’t sure that I was really in the mood. I read a couple more pages, then a couple more. The next thing I knew the Sunday dinner was burnt and I was half way through the book.
So, basically, I’m not going to give a long account of plot. It would be very easy to give away the story and its much better to have the revelations without any prior knowledge. The story is a post apocalyptic style book and there are hungries (zombies) – but, in case you’re now groaning don’t be misled. Whilst there might be a few familiar ideas playing out here the story is an interesting and compelling read that feels like a fresh visit on this idea. It takes a strong look at humanity and the different depths that people will go to in order to survive not to mention the way that everyone has their own justification for what they think is ‘best’ in any given situation.
The start of the book opens on an army base. The majority of the UK’s population seems to have been wiped out and the remaining few survivors are trying to stay alive whilst attempting to find a cure. Amongst others on the base is Dr Caldwell – an ambitious scientist with ideas of saving the world and being recognised as the saving grace of humanity. A teacher called Miss Justineau and her pupils – including Melanie. Melanie and her fellow classmates never go outside. They spend all their time either in the classroom or in their own cells. Each day follows a pattern that only changes in the type of information they are fed.
On the outside of the base are the hungries. Also, there are the junkers – they’re also survivors – but, they’ve turned a little bit nasty. They’re desperate for food and other goods and quite frankly are not afraid to use force to take it.
I haven’t read this author before and found his writing style very easy to read. He managed to make me feel something for all of the characters – even if it was extreme dislike! The setting was easy to imagine. The zombies were scary – think fast moving and relentless, brutal, bloodthirsty and grotesque – your basic zombie nightmare really. There were a number of twists and shocks along the way and the ending was unexpected.
I can’t say too much more about this without turning into that person, the one who likes to blurt out the ending of a film or the name of the murderer before you’re been to see the film or picked up the book! What I can say is that this was surprising in a good way. The author effectively combines horror, sci fi and dystopia. He provides enough information to give you a basis for what’s occurred but without inundating you with terminology and the need to rush to the dictionary.
Basically, this a damn good read. It takes the idea of Pandora – who was the original girl with all the gifts – and gives it a different twist. The ending reminded me of one of my favourite books – but, unfortunately I can’t tell you because it would give the ending away! Also, it reads like a self contained novel which is quite unusual – that being said, I would definitely pick up more about this world from this author if he chose to continue and I will undoubtedly check out some of his other works having now read this.
My recommendation is to read this – but, if you’re cooking dinner make something that doesn’t require attention, otherwise, once you pick this up, you’ll be eating burnt offerings.