I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Series: The Hungry Plague #1
Published by Orbit on June 10th 2014
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Also by this author: Fellside, The Boy on the Bridge
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.
“Pandora […] was a really amazing woman. All the gods had blessed her and given her gifts. That’s what her name means – ‘the girl with all the gifts’. So she was clever, and brave, and beautiful, and funny, and everything else you’d want to be. But she just had the one tiny fault, which was that she was very – and I mean very curious.”
Melanie is a curious little girl, much like Pandora was. She loves school, loves learning but loves her teacher Miss Justineau even more. She’s never seen the outside world, only her cell, the corridor, the shower room and the classroom which is located on an army base. Melanie is an incredibly intelligent little girl, capable of extremely high level classes for someone her age. Other than being near genius, she’s just a normal little girl, until she catches the scent of human flesh.
‘…the Breakdown, when the world filled with monsters who looked like people you knew and loved, and every living soul went scrambling and skittering for cover like mice when the cat wakes up…’
The normal hungries that roam the earth are your classic type zombie: they’re mindless and single-minded when it comes to obtaining their next meal. Melanie and her classmates are high-functioning zombies or “hungries” that are capable of speech and emotions, things the normal hungries are incapable of. These children have been captured for the sole purpose of experimentation, in hopes that they are the key to a possible cure for this terrible disease that has consumed the world.
There are many interesting aspects to this novel that I wouldn’t normally expect to find in a normal zombie-type book. First and foremost is the cognitive abilities of these children despite their undead status. It was an interesting aspect and leads to the next aspect: the ethics behind the experimenting on these coherent children even if it’s done for the good of the human race. The doctor conducting the experiments, Doctor Caldwell, has completely disconnected herself from the belief that what she is doing is wrong and successfully convinces you as a reader in the chapters told from her POV that it’s for the greater good. Switching to the chapters told from the POV of Miss Justineau offers you the opposite stance as she’s become attached to not only Melanie but the whole of her students even though she fully understands exactly what they are and the danger they represent. The perplexity of the situation their forced into isn’t simple nor straightforward.
The other aspect to this novel that is the main driving force is the relationship that develops between Melanie and Miss Justineau. Melanie has suffered through a life of solitary and Miss Justineau’s teachings are the shining beacon of hope that she always has to look forward to. In turn, Miss Justineau develops an affection for Melanie despite her best intentions to remain distant. The relationship was surprisingly heartfelt and touching.
Setting all the unexpected aspects aside, my favorite aspect of zombie novels is always the why and seeing what route each author takes. Zombie novels have become quite common these days and thus requires them to have an original aspect that hasn’t been done before. The Girl With All the Gifts does just that. The individuals in this novel are infected with Ophiocordyceps, a genus of fungi that actually exists in our world today but grows only on insects. I can’t express enough what a superb job M.R. Carey does at explaining the details of this fungus and how it came to be possible for it to infect humans. He goes into incredible detail yet explains it in such a skillful way as to avoid leaving us non-scientists completely clueless.
While The Girl With All the Gifts had many incredible facets to it, the ending was the most memorable. Shocking and unexpected yet such a fitting ending to this amazing story. Engaging, shocking and thrilling, The Girl With All the Gifts is one incredible read that thankfully manages to live up to all the hype.