I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Hachette Digital, Inc. on June 19th, 2014
Genres: Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller
NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.
When they come for her, Sergeant Parks 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.
Melanie is a very special girl.
Welcome to our first edition of
A new segment where at least two of our bloggers collaborate to share their thoughts in a joint review discussion. Today, Bry and Fry discuss their latest obsession, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ by M. R. Carey.
I finished this book last night and I’m still reeling from it. The ending was both disheartening and elating. A true testament to Ian Malcom’s proclamation of, “Life finds a way.”
It held some elements of books in the same genre, but it offered less horror than Justin Cronin’s The Passage and less conspiracy than Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series. Still, the characters were fully fleshed (heh) and the infecting agent was well thought out. An awesome literary experience.
The Girl with All the Gifts stunned me -it is so far out of my usual reading interests, yet was easily one of the best, if not the best book I’ve read all year. Not only did it captivate me, but now that it has been a few weeks since I’ve read this, I admit that it has stayed with me as a lingering thought and an emotional imprint. Reading this book was truly an experience, and it inspired a whole month of similar reading that opened me up to a genre I never thought I’d dabble in.
**Below this point, the conversation may have some spoilers. Read at your own risk, and tread carefully.**
F: Sooooooooooooooo this fucking book.
B: This book man. This book. First off, the premise was spectacular. I didn’t realize that the author is responsible for Hellblazer and Constantine until after, which didn’t shock me. This is an author who can weave a complex world with just a few words, and suck you right in.
F: No, it was great. From the first chapter I was hooked. I’d read to the scene where Melanie is taken to the lab for dissection before I started recommending it to everyone. At that point, I had decided that it could do no wrong, and I was right.
B: Yes! You were the reason I decided to read it. The abstract had caught my eye, but your praise was the real kicker to get me to read it
F: I never know who I can recommend zombie books to. I tried to get someone else to read it and their response was that zombies were so over done and that the media was so saturated with them.
B: I would wholly agree – I never saw myself at all being part of anything about zombies – reading, shows, whatever. It HAS been done to death, pun intended. But this book was completely special and new.
F: Yes, it has the standard edge of your seat nonsense that you’d expect from a horror book. But it had so much more character and depth to it that it’s really hard to explain the appeal without having experienced it yourself. If I could scrub my brain of this book and experience it new again, I totally would. It was just that sort of amazing.
B: Agreed. I especially appreciated the depth and specificity dedicated to the ‘Breakdown’ infection that this book had. I’ve never even considered the possibility of a fungal infection zombie, but given that cordyceps is a real thing, the extrapolation was downright terrifying.
F: Jon [Husband] rushed through The Last of Us (having borrowed both game and console from a coworker), but they did the whole fungal thing. And from what I saw of the game, they just used a standard Cordyceps. What I really enjoyed about the pathogen in this book was the combination of two different fungus. It didn’t just kill the host and move on, it created a whole jungle of pods with which to create massive and supreme spread.
B: That was the most blood chilling part. This was a living species, hell bent on world domination, and it knew how to get there. This wasn’t a disease of violence and force; it was the wrath of mother nature, slowly reclaiming the world. There was this conflicted atmosphere of inevitability and hope, but not in the cliche survival sense of standard zombie reads.
F: When I got to the point in the book where the pods started showing up, I felt that the characters had a hopeless quest. One pod could infect them all. Once they found the jungle of fungus, it was a matter of just how exactly were they going to spin the end of the world?
B: Which lead to the triumph of how hard the ending hit. You had this immense sense of dread, and yet I felt that it was still almost impossible to have anticipated that outcome.
F: It’s true. You knew you were in for the worst, but somehow it was okay in the end.
B: That was the part that really hooked me, that I found myself considering over and over. Just what would that world look like? How long can you evade absolute certainty?
F: Would they continue to age and breed and repopulate? Also, just how long did Miss Justineau last? She had the fancy suit and the fancy airlocked van, but the second you open either of those, she’s done for. Would they learn and go forth and find other’s like them? Or would they stay and be the only civilized group?
B: Was it really a mercy? Or was she condemned to one of the worst tragedies in knowing what was going to happen? This would draw us back into the Mira Grant Newsflesh series debates, and the horror of knowing you were turning, facing your death so clearly in the face.
F: The characters, themselves in the face of this inevitable force are all diverse and interesting. The titular character, Melanie, is a different play on the zombie trope. She doesn’t become self-aware until partway through the book. Until then, she considers herself a normal child despite the need to be restrained and the need to eat maggots once a week. Her absolute hero worship of one of her teachers, Miss Justineau, might be one of the more heartbreaking things in the book. She never falters in her faith in the woman, nor her love.
B: I felt so strongly about Melanie. She was so sweet and gentle-spirited, despite what she couldn’t help instinctually. She cared strongly about everyone, especially Miss Justineau, but she was also so accepting when it came to putting herself into situations of discomfort or danger – granted, she’s not able to perceive danger in the same way, but she was more vigilant over being muzzled like an animal than the humans she was a threat to. I think this almost detached regard for her longevity was a symptom of being this special breed of child, as we see in the others like her, and what they are capable of.
F: The other children were animalistic in a way. They hunted in packs, much like a zombie version of a velociraptor. That, in and of itself, was terrifying as no one could expect or plan for zombies who could reason and think and trap.
B: But it was more than just being able to hunt in packs. They were able to lure, and use deception, and had enough of an intimate knowledge of their prey to completely incapacitate a target before they even knew they were in trouble. It was remarkable, and horrifying.
F: Yeah, they had hamstrung that poor bloke before he had a chance to react. Poor guy was unlucky in everything to begin with. Serves him right for running off in a crazed huff.
B: I can’t say I felt too badly about him. Or many of the others. They were all wonderful characters who were clearly established without being one dimensional, but I still cared more about the poor zombie-child than the humans. With maybe the exception of Miss Justineau’s tenderness, Melanie was almost more human than they all were. Especially in comparison to Caroline Caldwell.
F: Holy crap Caroline Caldwell. The epitome of cold scientific fact in human form. She’s the anthropomorphization of that list of side effects at the end of a prescription drug commercial.
B: Haha! All too accurate. She bothered me terribly, because she was realistic and believable in that complete lack of empathy. She was a woman with a mission, and the benefits outweighed her collateral damage. She is the type of person directly responsible for how it ended.
F: She totally was, in juxtaposition to Melanie’s romantic notions of mythology and her ideologies, which did bring about the ending.
B: That is why it was just so powerful. Overall, this will remain one of the best books of the year, and has well earned its space on my “Favourites of All Time” list. I don’t think I will be able to recommend this book enough, considering how strongly it made me feel.
F: Same. I would recommend it even to someone who doesn’t enjoy horror or zombies. It was so much more than that. Definitely one of my favorite books.