Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Main characters:  Melanie, a gifted 10-year-old; teacher Miss Helen Justineau; Sergeant Eddie Parks; Dr. Caroline Caldwell;  and Pvt. Gallgher
Location:  England
Time period:  sometime in the not too distant future
Genre:  Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Horror

I quite enjoy stories that take a classic horror monster--in this case, zombies--and plays with the traditional tropes.  One of my favorites of this type of story is Scott Westerfeld's Peeps, which draws a comparison between vampirism and parasites and includes details of some real-world parasites and their effects of their hosts as illustration.

In this book, a fungus has infected most of the population and turned them into canabalistic "hungries."  Certain children though, like Melanie, seem to be unaffected.  While the hungries are brain-dead and mostly immobile unless they scent prey, these children of the hungries seem almost super-normal, with high intelligence, speed, and strength.  A group of them have been captured and taken to a research facility where they are taught a traditional school curriculum but are strapped in wheelchairs or locked in cells for the protection of the scientists, soldiers, and teachers who work at the facility.

When they are overrun by hungries, Melanie, her teacher Miss Justineau, lead scientist Dr. Caldwell, Sgt. Parks and Pvt. Gallagher are the only survivors and begin a journey south to try to join up with another facility. 

Though there are some good action scenes, the main thrust of the story is a character study of these five survivors.  We are already primed to like Melanie--it is mostly her POV that we experience for the first part of the book--and we like Miss Justineau because Melanie loves and trusts her.  But Sgt. Parks and Dr. Caldwell start as Melanie's enemies--Dr. Caldwell because she has dissected the children to study them (and is about to dissect Melanie's brain when the hungries attack) and Sgt. Parks because he is the guard who enforces Melanie's captivity.  As they travel together and become more acquainted, Sgt. Parks becomes more sympathetic; he and Melanie never quite trust each other but they do gain a certain amount of respect for each other.  Dr. Caldwell never becomes sympathetic, but she does become more understandable.

It did take me a while to get into this book and I had to re-start a few times before I got acclimated to this new world.  By the time the hungries attacked, I was invested and really enjoyed the journey these five characters took.  I would recommend this to zombie fans who are not averse to re-interpretation of the zombie genre.

I read this book as an e-ARC from NetGalley.

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