Melanie has a very regular life. She gets up in the morning, gets dressed, sits herself down in her chair and waits to be strapped down by the soldiers lead by Sergeant Parks. When her legs, arms and head are secure, she is rolled to class together with the other children. Her favorite teacher is Miss Justineau who sometimes tells them stories. But her routine is destroyed when she is first carted off by Dr. Caldwell who wants to perform some kind of surgery on her – and then the military base she lives at is overrun by hungries. And suddenly Melanie finds her life turned upside down – and she has to learn the truth about her world and herself.
The Girl with All the Gifts is a wonderful novel. Gripping plot, vivid characters and a take on zombie lore that feels entirely fresh and new. Simply lovely.
We have had many zombie stories. Zombies are very en vogue. There are slow zombies and fast, zombies comedies, stories with zombie protagonists, stories with zombie threats, zombie romances and a mix of it all. So to find a novel that manages to do something else entirely is surprising – and great. The Girl with All the Gifts manages by turning zombies on their head. Zombies have always stood for the unremitting advancement of time. It may be slow, but ultimately death is coming for us. But in The Girl with All the Gifts, it’s not death that’s coming for us but a new form of life. Yes, that means that the old way of life has to die, but it’s for the sake of life.
This change-up is only possible because Carey obviously knows how a zombie story works in the first place (and that he knows how stories work in general, he’s been proving over and over again with The Unwritten). And the execution of it is so well thought through that it’s simply a joy. All the details fit together even if not all questions are answered.
And it’s not just the plot that is clear and surprisingly realistic. The characters are even more so. Every single one of them, in all their complex relationships with each other and their contradictoriness, are understandable and complete. Even the characters who don’t get all the sympathies get personalities at least.
I fell in love with the book, tore through it and when I was done, I was looking forward to the film even more. Could it be any better? I can’t imagine how.