The girl, in The Girl with All the Gifts, is Melanie. Young, very intelligent, and with a massive student crush on her favorite teacher Miss Justineau. Her life focuses on her school and lessons. But slowly, we realize there’s something not quite right about Melanie’s school. Everything is in an underground bunker. The children are kept in cells. Soldiers, under the command of the stern Sgt. Parks, bring them to and from class in restraints. And sometimes, a child is taken to see Dr. Caldwell. They never come back.
Melanie accepts all this as normal, it’s all she has ever known. Until the army base which holds the school is attacked. Melanie, Miss Justineau, Dr. Caldwell, Sgt. Parks, and young Pvt. Gallagher are forced to flee into a zombie apocalypse. This is where the real story starts.
The story is told mainly from Melanie’s point of view. While not a unique idea, I felt it was a great change from dealing only with the humans.
All the protagonists are full, rich characters. Carey takes great pains to give them interesting back stories. He explains what’s going on in their heads, why they feel and act the way they do. I was left feeling they could all be real people. People I would like to spend time with outside of the book.
The author did a good job coming up with a clever cause of the zombie infection that is based in reality. All the science -and there’s a fair bit of it – makes sense, which is quite refreshing. Don’t let the science put you off. It’s important to the plot, and what there is is not overwhelming or hard to understand.
Finally, even when you feel you have the plot and characters figured out, Carey puts a couple of great twists at the end. I was completely caught out, but happy to be surprised.
Of course, I did have some problems with the book.
I think with zombie stories people expect a certain amount of gore and death. If that’s what you want, you’ll probably be disappointed. There’s not much violence, and what there is isn’t dwelt on.
There’s also not a lot of action in general. The middle of the book, after they escape from the base, gets very slow. At one point, when the group has found a refuge, it basically stalls while the characters take time to recover.
Action is not the point of the book. It’s more about the people, and how they interact with each other. If I had to write a blurb for the back cover it would go: “A series of character studies, that just happen to be set in a zombie apocalypse.”
There’s a scene in an abandoned city where Melanie and Pvt. Gallagher share a sense of wonder at everything they are seeing. Neither of them has any experience of the wider world before the zombies. I thought this was the best writing in the book.
Lastly, even though the characters are so rich, they can still be categorized in to basic stereotypes and tropes. Precocious but naive child without real world experience, nurturing teacher who would do anything for her students, grizzled veteran who puts duty over sentiment, amoral scientist, and raw recruit in over his head. For me, this meant that their final fates were no surprise. A noble sacrifice, a rookie mistake, an obsessive curiosity that overrides any sense of self-preservation.
Overall though, I greatly enjoyed The Girl with All the Gifts. I hope this encourages you to at least give the book a try. Thanks for reading.
Thanks for the review, Mick! Very nicely done; I’m going to have to remember this book.
Thank you Dave. I’m so grateful to you for sharing it on your site.