As post-apocalyptic zombie-infested horror novels go, I thought this was a well-crafted and well-paced read that both made me tense and made me sad. There are faint echoes of The Passage here with a young girl with a foot in both worlds (human and not human) though, unless I missed it, this particular zombie plague was not brought about by scientific hubris (though there is a lot of scientific hubris in this story).
We are introduced to Melanie, a young girl with pale skin, who lives on a base north of London with a group of other children and a rotating group of teachers, including Melanie’s favorite, Miss Justineau. However, it soon is clear that Melanie and her fellow children aren’t ordinary kids. They are kept in cells and when they are brought to class, they are strapped into wheelchairs so they can’t move their arms, legs, or even their heads. There are soldiers with guns and every Sunday the children are cleaned in some sort of chemical shower. As Melanie continues to describe her world, we learn that outside the base lurk dangerous “hungries” but inside the base, there are dangers too—a Dr. Caldwell, who takes children out of their cells but never returns them.
As is often the case in a novel like this, to get too far into the plot is to spoil some of the fun as the reader is forced to collect clues and slowly figure out how our world has changed to this. There is beauty in the relationship between Melanie and Miss Justineau but even more interesting is the way the lines between what is human and what is monstrous get blurred here.