Melanie is one of a small group of children who are educated at an exclusive facility, with highly trained security personnel and top-tier medical experts on hand. Her education is extensive and varied. She is a precocious and brilliant girl, with an inquisitive personality and a great deal of self-control. Her survival instinct is finely honed. This all comes in very useful when she, her favourite teacher, two of the guards and one of the doctors are forced to flee their facility and run for their lives in infested territory.
Infested by what, you say? Well, you know those ants? You’ve seen the time-lapse. There’s an ant, and it gets infected with a fungus, and then it climbs as high as it can and waits until a mushroomy thing grows out of its head, and then the mushroomy thing makes spores go over all the nearby ants? That ant thing. I’m not finding a link. You can google it at your leisure.
Just so we’re clear, that has always been my personal fucking nightmare. I don’t know why. I have a problem with plants growing where they shouldn’t. I freaked the fuck out when I found a clover growing up through the overflow in the sink in my last house, and it was green and normal, do not even get me started on the creepy white no-sunlight plants gah they’re awful. I am aware this is firmly on the “Elizabeth being really not normal” side of the ledger, but I get twitchy just thinking about it. (I think this is why beansprouts really bother me as well. Yech.)
Anyway, this is a zombie apocalypse novel without any actual undead, and it is an incredible piece of work. I forswore zombie novels after I spent a year and a half dreaming about zombies courtesy of Max Brooks World War Z, but this one had piqued my interest earlier. (I dreamt about the book last night. Actually, I dreamt about writing this review about the book, and then it sort of segued into the plot of the book. I spent some time in the dream critiquing my own dream version of the story, so it definitely stayed with me. I just hope it stops, I remember my dreams every night courtesy of brain drugs and I am really not joking about the year and a half of zombie dreams thing.)
ANYWAY, the characters are all really well fleshed out and the story is really well-paced; I have a very visual experience when I read, but this was even more like a film than normal. Carey has written a bunch of comics before, and he’s clearly learned a thing or two about pacing and dramatic tension. If this doesn’t get made into a film at some point, I will be very surprised.
I am mostly very tired of zombies as a trope, vampires have always been more my thing, but The Girl With All The Gifts is a really good addition to the oeuvre, and there’s a lot in there for the reader to mull over. Clearly, it stayed with me really very clearly, and I think it would even without the fungus thing. (GAH. Still horrible. Yuck yuck yuck.)
4 stars: clever and compelling, this book doesn’t quite meet my criteria for 5 stars but it’s a very close thing. Highly recommended.
Cross-posted to my blog here.