Girl with All the Gifts by M R Carey

The girl with all the giftsA review by C J Dee

★★★☆☆ three out of five stars

Melanie is a 10-year-old girl with no memory of her life before she was in the military base cell in which she lives. The only human interaction she has is from soldiers who strap her into a wheelchair with a gun pointed at her each morning, and the teachers who educate Melanie and her classmates.

Melanie is a talented student who loves her lessons and her favourite teacher, Miss Justineau. Smart as she is, Melanie can’t understand why the teachers all seem so sad or why the soldiers treat the students like time-bombs. The base is no longer safe though and Melanie must escape with a small group of personnel including Miss Justineau. Once off the base, the star student quickly learns the world is no longer the one she was taught so much about. She learns even more quickly that her travelling companions are not all allies.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a novel that expands on the short story Iphigenia in Aulis from the anthology An Apple for the Creature (edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner). I enjoyed reading Iphigenia in Aulis and in my mind it was one of the stand out stories from An Apple for the Creature. However, fans of the original short story should not be dissuaded. There are enough differences that the novel will still have surprises in store for you.

The story is an original twist on the zombie genre and is well written. The only issue I had was that it felt drawn out and overlong in parts that should feel fast paced and exciting, such as chase or fight scenes. However, that is purely the personal writing style preference of this reviewer.

The character development is interesting. There are only five main characters in the story and as it progressed I found each of them becoming less likeable. No exceptions. This may have been an intentional device by the author to show the worst of the characters as they moved further out of their comfort zones and deeper into their hardwired survival personas. Intentional or not, it was a different take on the defined group dynamic usually given to readers of horror or adventure novels. It was also quite an accomplishment given that some of the characters weren’t remotely likeable from the beginning.

All in all if you’re looking for a terrifying zombie tale that will keep you up at night with fright then you’re in the wrong place. The novel is scary in a “that could happen” way, similar to movies like Deep Impact or Armageddon but not in a “what was that noise?!” way. Regardless The Girl with All the Gifts is a decent story that is definitely worth reading if you enjoy post-apocalyptic stories, zombie stories or a combination of both.

★★★☆☆ three out of five stars

Page count: 403 [excludes author profile and acknowledgements] Format: Paperback
Publisher: Orbit