Book review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

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Title: The Girl with All the Gifts
Author: M. R. Carey
ISBN: 9780356500157
Pages: 460
Release Date: June 19, 2014
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror

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.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

— From Hachette Book Group

Just in time for Halloween I came across The Girl with all the Gifts. It has been popping up on my periphery here and there for some time, but only last week something grabbed my attention in its cryptic premise.

The moment I opened up the first chapter I was glued to its pages. I think I haven’t been so enamored by a book’s opening in a long time. I couldn’t wait to see where it went. Carey did a great job at choosing his primary narrator to be a young girl, whose sole existence was rooted to her cell and a classroom. As she began to slowly learn about her surroundings, so did the plot unfold in front of us. These half-shrouded descriptions of her daily life got me on the edge of my seat to find out what was going on in this world.

At one point, about a third through, an important event happened that forced the girl and a handful of others to abandon the relative security of their post, and to cross dangerous terrain towards a safe harbour. Here the narrative switched between suspense to straight survivalist action, and it lost some of that spellbinding appeal to me. I felt like I could just sit back and enjoy the ride until the finale. Don’t get me wrong, the story was still exceptionally engaging, but the sense of urgency to know how it all ended dissipated somewhat.

Come to think of it, I am a bit at a loss what prompted the aforementioned event to happen and what motivated the parties involved. Was it just revenge? Perhaps if Carey utilized one more point of view from the other side of the trench, we could have avoided this confusion.

Besides that, I thought the characterization was well-done and the narration was evenly paced throughout. It made me are for the protagonist and the people around her, which was a good sign. There were some truly chilling passages, perfect for the season, so I cannot say anything negative about the author’s writing skills. He could certainly make you horrified with an effective turn of phrase or a vivid, grotesque imagery. The ending was kind of… unexpected, but effective. It sort of makes you wonder about the state of humanity in a few decades after the book ends.

When it came to zombie genre, The Girl with all the Gifts had everything that The Walking Dead lacked: constantly moving plot, tight cast of characters, purpose, and meaningful backstory. Great pick for Halloween.

Purchase this book: Book Depository
Author’s website: M. R. Carey
News of a prequel to come out in 2017: Tor.com

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