The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
Publication Date: June 10th 2014
ARC Provided by Netgalley and Orbit
Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – A-
I first read a version of this story back when it was called Iphigenia in Aulis and featured in the An Apple for the Creature anthology. I loved how Mike Carey was able to evoke such a visceral response in so few pages so, when I saw that it was being developed into a full-length novel, I was very excited but also curious as to where he could take the story. Well, I was definitely not disappointed and I never would have seen that ending coming!
If you haven’t already guessed, The Girl With All The Gifts is, at its most basic level, a zombie story. The world has been decimated by a virus that turns people from thinking, autonomous beings into instinct-driven, murderous hungries. The humans that remain are trying to study the virus to figure out either an inoculation or, best case scenario, a cure. The main scientist, Dr. Caldwell, thinks Melanie and her classmates are the missing link between the infected and the uninfected, but none of the children know that. They think they are in school to learn and interact with each other. They don’t know they are different. After all, they’re just children… aren’t they?
It’s hard to talk about The Girl With All The Gifts and avoid spoilers, but I will do my best. This book is divided into two main sections, the story within the military base and the story outside after the base falls. The story inside the base was very close to the short story narrative, but the story afterwards was a whole different animal.
We had five real “main” characters in The Girl With All The Gifts, though there were a few unnamed others that had a big effect on the story as well — if you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean. Melanie is, of course, the star of this book. She’s a special girl and not just because of what’s running through her veins. Melanie is protective and loyal, fierce yet soft-hearted, and incredibly intelligent. She truly has a genius-level intellect combined with the heart of a warrior. Ms. Justineau is her favorite teacher and together they form a very strong bond. Ms. Justineau herself was quite the powerful character and, no matter her muddled background, became a role model for Melanie. I loved Melanie and Ms. Justineau — they both tried to do what was right and were focused on surviving in their own way. They loved each other no matter the circumstances and it was interesting to watch their relationship develop, especially from Ms. Justineau’s side. It took me a little longer to develop an attachment to Sergeant Parks and Gallagher, but as each became more fleshed-out and their flaws started to add depth to their interactions, the goodness and desire to protect their teammates started to shine through. Parks especially became so much more than I expected from him in the beginning.
While I really loved these “white hat” characters, Dr. Caldwell was perhaps the most interesting character in The Girl With All The Gifts. She was our scientist, the one focused on saving the world above all else — but was she truly doing it for the good of humanity or just for her own personal glory? Did the ends truly justify the means and what if, in the end, she wasn’t even successful? Would her “gray area” actions have been justified then? Ms. Justineau and Dr. Caldwell represented two sides of the same coin — each one saw Melanie as important but, while one saw her as a person in her own right, one only saw her as a physical manifestation of the virus. How could you decide who was right and would knowing the eventual outcome of the research change your decision?
M.R. Carey, better known as Mike Carey, paints a fearsome and hopeless picture of our world within The Girl With All The Gifts. How can humanity come back from this devastation? It’s only through the pure determination of our characters that they’ve even made it this far once they are outside the military base. This book takes the “zombie” storyline and turns it on its head by combining it with research into actual parasites and their effects on anatomical structures. It has shades of Mira Grant’s 2103 novel, Parasite, but keeps the focus a little more on the “horror” aspect than the science fiction of that book. In the end, The Girl With All The Gifts forces us to think about the true meaning of humanity and evolution. I certainly didn’t see the ending coming, but it didn’t feel forced at all. It was an organic resolution to a world that no longer belongs to us.
Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit for providing an ARC copy of this book!
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