Published: June 10, 2014
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction
Pages: 403 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
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 loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.
I heard some fantastic things about The Girl with All the Gifts in 2016, so it ended up getting put on my list of “books I need to read eventually”. I was looking for something fresh and different in January (great way to start the new year) and this was one of my audiobook picks for the month. Let me go ahead and say that I didn’t exactly know what this book was about, though I had my suspicions (zombies?) which were correct (zombies!). Typically, I would discard the idea of reading a book about zombies, but I’ve read a few since I’ve begun blogging that I really enjoyed.
*MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*
As far as zombie pathogens go, I find that fungal and/or parasite infestations are far more plausible than viral or any biologic method. Ophiocordyceps in its natural state infecting ants and effectively turning them into zombie slaves is unsettling, but the thought of it infecting humans in a similar way is downright chilling. A mutation that allows this to use humans as hosts is exactly what is happening in The Girl with All the Gifts. The parasitic fungus takes control of the brain, shutting down non-essential functions and turns the infected into protein munching monsters called Hungries. They don’t even prefer brains- they’ll eat flesh of all sorts, whether it’s human, avian, or insectoid. If it’s meat, they’ll eat.
Twenty years after the fall of society, there are some tenuous human strongholds throughout the world, but our story is set in the UK at a military research base some 60 miles from the city of Beacon. Here there are pale children that go from their cells to a classroom strapped into their wheelchairs under the watchful eye of armed guards. They learn everything from mathematics to Greek myths under the tutelage of several teachers. Melanie’s favorite is Mrs. Justineau. Melanie loves Mrs. Justineau and the all the stories she tells them, and how she greets each one of the students as they are wheeled into the classroom. Melanie is a Hungry, though she doesn’t know this and thinks nothing is out of the ordinary with her sterile, controlled life because it’s all she’s ever known. I decline to provide any more information about the story than this because even this much is ruining some of the surprise!
I think zombies are pretty perturbing but I loved this book! It’s much more than the terror of being eaten or infected- The Girl with all the Gifts is similar to The Walking Dead in that it’s about the people more than it’s about the apocalypse. My one qualm with this book is that Dr. Caldwell didn’t turn into a Hungry when it seemed unavoidable. I’m talking about the scene where she’s fighting off one of them with a shard of glass- her hands are sliced to ribbons as she is jabbing glass into this thing’s face. Blood to blood contact seemed inevitable to me, so when she remained human I was little disappointed. Other than that, I thought this book was pretty brilliant! Plus, there’s a movie adaptation so you can have some visual horror after you finish up the book.