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The Girl With All the Gifts Hardcover – June 10, 2014
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An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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"Unique and terrifying."―Booklist
"An instant favorite."―Boing Boing
"A great read that takes hold of you and doesn't let go."―John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
"Heartfelt, remorseless and painfully human...as fresh as it is terrifying. A jewel."―Joss Whedon
"If you only read one novel this year, make sure it's this one, it's amazing."―Martina Cole
"One of the more imaginative and ingenious additions to the dystopian canon."―Kirkus
"...a brilliant work of science fiction, but even people who never read science fiction should absolutely read this one."―io9.com
About the Author
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Carey has taken a real biological organism (the parasitic fungus cordyceps which highjacks the nervous system of its host, typical ants) and imagined what would happen if this fungus jumped the species barrier and was able to infect humans. The result is a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions as most of humankind is infected, those who remain attempting to not become infected themselves while seeking a vaccine.
It is difficult to write about the plot without spoiling the story, so I will err on the side of being vague. The story is a bit confusing initially, as it is told from the perspective of Melanie (the girl with all the gifts.) Finding out what those gifts are, and how they are important to the plot is a large part of the story itself, and a large part of the fun of reading it. Besides the brilliance of the concept of the story, I particularly enjoyed the constant changes in perspectives between characters giving readers an opportunity to see and understand their motivations and world-views. Carey also does a tremendous job of creating and building tension as the plot moves forward, although (as with many of his other books), there is an element of the bitter-sweet in its resolution.
For those unfamiliar with this author, I recommend _The House of War and Witness_ first (only out of personal preference) before reading _the Girl With All the Gifts_; that said, this is a fantastic piece of dystopic science fiction.
To say too much about the plot would be to deprive unsuspecting readers some spectacular plot twists. But, in the interest of not being entirely unhelpful, here goes. Six year old Melanie is a genius. She reads the classics, performs Calculus, and quotes Greek literature. Her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau, adores Melanie above the other students in a very unique class. For each day, Sergeant and other hardened soldiers roll Melanie and her classmates into class strapped helplessly into wheel chairs. No one ever touches the children, or gets too close to their teeth, or releases their bonds in the presence of adults. Why? Melanie doesn’t know at first, but gradually learns of the undead “hungries” that have killed the world outside of the school. That world seems so far away … until it crashes in on the school and destroys it. What follows is a frenetic journey of self-discovery and survival as Melanie, Miss Justineau, and Sergeant attempt to survive a brutal outside world. For the truth about Melanie and the danger she poses to those she loves most becomes the girl’s most difficult lesson yet.
This novel has everything – everything – I look for in a story. Compelling characters you cannot simply classify as good or bad who soldier on with hope despite a hopeless situation. Twists and turns galore – some you see coming and some you don’t. And best of all, an ending that you don’t see coming, but when it does, you know it is perfect.
Five enthusiastic stars for this novel … and I would give it six if I could. Just read it, okay. You can thank me later.
Spoilers... Zombies are already a tired concept and this book does nothing to change that. If you're looking for a classic horror concept with a twist check out "Passage" by Justin Cronin instead.
Top international reviews
I guess I was taken in by the opening, as you know something is afoot when a young girl is strapped into a chair with no ability to move her limbs, and then force fed something no normal child would eat or want to eat either.
When you find out that the foreword is written by none other than Joss Whedon himself, and that the author is producing a screenplay at the same time as writing said novel, then it’s winner winner chicken dinner.
Though I’ve not seen “The Walking Dead”, it has that kind of feel to it - atmospheric, dramatic yet personal and touching at the same time.
The novel didn’t end how I wanted it to, but it certainly made for an enjoyable and thrill packed read.
I was absolutely gripped by this story and by what it tells us of human nature and its response to adversity. The little girl was a haunting figure and all the way through I wanted her to be safe. I cared about her and her survival. I also felt for her teacher, fighting against immense odds to look after her charge. Other characters pulled me or repelled me, but sometimes I changed my mind about them as their stories unfolded. The end was sublime. Horrific in some ways but ultimately hopeful. It’s a haunting story and I shall not forget it in a hurry. Highly recommended.
This is a novel told from multiple perspectives that gives a unique view on the zombie apocalypse theme and the aftermath. The main voice in the book is that of Melanie, she seems like an ordinary girl in a strange world of underground living, military figures and other children just like her. It isn’t until a few pages in when you are told the children only eat once a week, are covered in disinfectant and strapped into their chairs that you begin to twig that something isn’t quite right. We learn early on that Melanie and the other children are zombies in a world that has been all but wiped out by a virus that feeds on its host.
The story switches between Melanie’s teacher, Miss Justineau, the military man who keeps them secure on the base, Sergeant Parks and a scientist, Dr Caldwell. There are a few other little snapshots in there too from other perspectives but these with Melanie provide the main four voices..
A break in at their base results in nearly everyone dying, a flood of zombies and forces Parks, Caldwell, Justineau and Melanie to go on the run. They head towards the only human haven left in the UK, a base that has been silent for months while trying to learn more about the virus and survive the zombies they run into. As the book progresses, we encounter emotive situations where we learn how Melanie came to be and why she is not like the other zombies, but what does that mean for the future?
I really enjoyed this book; it was well written, fast paced, filled with action and made me think. The ending was not what I was expecting and that always wins a book brownie points from me. I love the simple design of the cover and I loved the interwoven narratives each with a distinct voice. This is a four star book for me, just because of the range of emotions I felt while reading it and the impact it had on me.
The story was very slow to start and I didn't think quite up to the author's usual standard. Several plot questions were left unanswered. But the complexity of the main character, hungry girl Melanie, and the army sergeant and the school teacher with which she is on the run, made it an engaging and in depth story.
This is defiantly one I would never consider as I don’t read futuristic , apocalypse, zombie type books full stop.
However, I was totally committed by the beginning of the book with a very dark and some what controversial start.
From a young girls story of being imprisoned isolated with other children, committed to a learning classroom whilst strapped and tethered.
The story quickly gathers pace and we learn why.
I could not put this book down , I started to love / dislike the characters and wanted to see their outcome......
which by now I thought I had guessed the end!!
What a finish !
I NEVER seen that coming, I was completely wrong.
I was disappointed it ended.. and quite abruptly too.
Overall I enjoyed this book, I would certainly recommend you try this future apocalyptic fans or not.
Well, this one took me by surprise in more ways than one.
I hadn't read any of the reviews so I was certainly not expecting a zombie story. However, I wouldn't have read it if I HAD known what it was about which would have meant missing out on a very gripping read. I even had to turn more lights on than usual a couple of times because the story freaked me out that much.
Very entertaining, if slightly predictable - almost as if it had been written with the intention of it being made into a movie - hence the lost star, but definitely a pleasant surprise.
I hadn't see or even heard of the film before I read this, but I've seen it since - it's okay, but the book is far superior.
The opening of this story seems at first to be almost Victorian and certainly rich with fairytale references. A young girl locked in a cell, wheeled out to a schoolroom each day where she and her fellow pupils all sit strapped in and guarded by the Sergeant. Our narrator is Melanie, the imprisoned girl and we're not explicitly told why she's imprisoned until some way into the story - but it becomes clear by the hints that this is not the Britain that we recognise.
There are echoes of John Wyndham's 'The Day of the Triffids' and Terry Nations's 'Survivors', as well as Alex Garland's '28 Days Later'. If you're a fan of intelligent sci-fi and prepared to put aside any prejudices that 'The Walking Dead' may have left you with, then this is the book for you.
There are some great action set pieces in this book, and the characters are deep enough for you to like or hate, and their development is good enough for you to be touched by the ending. There were times when this book felt a touch directionless though, and also some plot holes that didn’t entirely make sense!
On the whole though, an intriguing dystopian story that definitely had some great moments!
Having said that, this is better written than 99% of zombie books, some of which read as if they were written by shambling corpses. And it does start very well. And I did read it all the way through, so it is readable. I just think it's a shame that so many authors now (Gillian Flynn, I'm looking at you) excel at writing the set-up, but can't provide a satisfying resolution. Maybe water fluoridisation would help?
I really liked how different this book was - I found it was a great book to get into after reading what feels like very similar stories for a long time. The actually story really makes you think at times and I adored Melanie - the main character whose point of view the majority of the story is told from. However, some of the other characters felt slightly dull at times and I feel that the book would have benefited from some more minor character development. What I really love about this book though is the feelings of mystery - not all the questions you have when reading will be answered, this is something which I feel a lot of authors try to avoid at all times preferring to completely wrap up a story at the end leaving no mystery, and so this makes the book have a more unique tone and helps it to stand out from many others.
Excellent stuff and recommended.
The book is written in multiple narratives from everyone in the main group of characters: Sgt Parks, Dr Caldwell, Pvt Gallagher, Miss Justineau and obviously Melanie
The character development is exactly what I'm looking for. Imperfect characters with redeemable qualities so each reader can sympathise with individual characters. There's no clear favourite they all come across very human with the mistakes they make or have made.
Through each chapter the characters develop and open up, maybe because they feel the noose tightening, you begin to feel like you know them more and more. Which as a reader you need that connection to fully immerse yourself and enjoy a story.
Overall: A very gripping story purely because you connect with the group you want them to survive you put yourself in their shoes and think what would I do how scared would I be? The fact you see situations from each of their perspectives and see their opinions etc you also evolve with the story. Can't recommend enough.
Zombies. Zombies. Zombies.
Zombies, everywhere! While Twilight brought in a vampire fad for a time, The Walking Dead has brought zombies back to the mainstream with a gory vengence!
Of course, for those interested in comics and all things geeky, zombies are a constant meme running through culture. Similar to the fascinating and recurring debate on “When is a strawberry dead?” (on the great BBC radio 4 show The Infinite Monkey Cage), zombies make us confront two things: the very nature of death and, in particular, death of the individual (the soul?) and the issue of… THE APOCALYPSE!
I wrote a little about the apocalypse in my review of Station Eleven. Suffice it to say, that the theme lets writers address aspects of human existence with the training wheels of society taken off.
In the case of this book (which is intelligent, thrilling, pacy and a VERY GOOD READ) the theme is it addresses is humanity or, more precisely, when does humanity start and when does it end?
The author, M R Carey, is a seasoned comic book writer, and it shows. I’m a seasoned comic book reader and I can see this book in a very visual way. Many of the themes and archetypes addressed in it are standard comic book/ geek culture tropes.
The Junkers. The characters (all, at least initially, stereotypes). The zombies. The landscape. All very very standard.
But this book isn’t standard. About 6 chapters in I feared it would be. But it isn’t. Here’s what sets it apart:
Melanie. She’s great. She’s an intelligent kid with self awareness but she always feels like a kid. This connection to childhood is maintained through her devotion to her teacher. Melanie is fully realised and the big reveal at the end makes so much sense not only because of a cyclical “ah!” moment, but also the emotional sense it makes to the book’s best and most central character, Melanie.
The explanation. Sometimes I like it when apocalyptic tales DON’T explain the BIG BAD REASON (eg: Y The Last Man) but when it’s done well (scientific enough to be reasonable and not enough to be unintelligible) it adds a whole sub layer of depth and pathos. M R Carey does it so well here. The reasoning explains Melanie. It explains each character’s motivations. And it explains and illuminates the ending.
The big shift in pace. For a brief time near the beginning I was worried that the book might lack pace. I loved the start, but there was a moment when I was concerned that the book would be confined to … well the confinement area. Then the big attack and, like a conductor downing a Red Bull, the tempo bursts forth and doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop until the ending, which drops the pace to a soft calm inevitable dream-like climax which feels, after the read, the only and most complete end.
This is a book written by someone at ease with fiction, comics, quality TV and popular culture (M R Carey wrote the screenplay adaptation for this at the same time as the novel). It’s the perfect book for someone looking for a very well-written, well-paced and well-populated novel. It has a hefty mix of quasi-scientific ideas, emotional resonance and a plot that storms along likeSnowpiercer.
Buy it. Read it. Wait for the movie.