Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review - The girl with all the gifts

The girl with all the gifts - M.R. Carey

This book was another impulse buy. The premise sounds good and any zombie movie that gets good reviews is a positive for me.

The blurb:

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 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 favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

Very minor and bloody obvious  spoilers below.

It is rare that a zombie novel can offer anything new. M.R. Carey's book does just that. It is told from a combination of viewpoints but probably most uniquely the main character, Melanie, is a zombie herself. Admittedly this is not an original idea but I've never seen it executed with such care.

Melanie does not know she is a "Hungry," she has spent her whole life chained up. Every day she is taken to lessons tied up and placed with others during the same plight. She does not know any different and has never seen the outside world. As such the only tenderness Melanie experiences are the dispositions of her teachers. Some are strict and perfunctory others her kind and motherly.

Despite her younger years ironically it is Melanie that does the most maturity. She quickly grasps the situation and is the most level headed or of the group. It is this affable behaviour that endears her to the more sceptical characters. The great thing about her though is that she recognises their hostility and never overly strives to challenge it.

It is one of the more motherly teachers who is the other main character. Miss Justineau refuses to see Melanie as a “Hungry” and sees beyond her nature. In a novel filled with characters that distrust Melanie and her ilk Miss Justineau is traditionally the easiest one to like. She is compassionate and trusts her instincts rather than what she is told. This also makes her naive, which adds more dimension to her character.

The other characters are strong if not as well fleshed out. The doctor Caroline is perhaps the strongest, serving as a protagonist with very compelling motives. The plot is serviceable for this type of novel. There is nothing wrong with it but you pretty much know what you are getting in this genre. If I'm honest the paced lagged a little in the centre but it soon picked up again.

The ending is very good. It juggles the balance between tension and realism correctly to not over play the final scenes. All in all, this is a strong post apocalyptic novel with a little more intelligence to it than others in the genre. I'd recommend it.

My rating: 7.9