The Girl with All the Gifts
2 August 2014 3 Comments
Author: M.R. Carey
Summary: 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.
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.5/5
Review: I don’t keep track of new releases in any way, i just randomly come across books or receive recommendations (and mostly read ‘older’ books). I was excited for this book at around the time of its release, because of this. Joss Whedon recommends a book? I immediately go and look up that book. And it did sound exactly the kind of thing i would love. Six months later, i’ve read it and i love it.
I’m going to try to review this book while not giving too much away, because while it is similar to other books, other genres, there are a few important details that set it apart and allow it to explore aspects other books in this genre do not. And that makes this book some kind of wonderful, and not at all predictable or run of the mill.
A post-apocalyptic English setting; horror mixed with science fiction; three intelligent, strong-willed female characters. OF COURSE i loved this book. The beginning is strong, setting up the strange arrangement and posing many questions and making me eager to keep reading. When the status quo is disturbed the story really gets going, and although the plot runs a not unfamiliar path, the details that make this book unique affect everything that happens.
The science aspect of the story thrilled me, in the same way I Am Legend did. The horror aspects of the plot are not dismissed as supernatural, but literally put under a microscope and given a scientific explanation–they are made plausible. The scientific explanation, and how the horror actually played out made me think of The Day of the Triffids (another book i love). A book reminding me of (but never seeming to copy) books i love is a wonderful experience, and i devoured this book. Whenever i wasn’t reading it, i wanted to be reading it.
I don’t want to give too much away, but then again, for me there were no big surprises. For an active reader it’s easy to figure out what’s happening. Why this little girl is locked in a cell and strapped in to a wheelchair. What gave me pause is how long it took her to figure it out. She’s a smart kid. Like, really smart. The fact that it takes her so long to realise what’s different about her doesn’t seem plausible to me. I’d have felt it more realistic if she’d known, but repressed the information. Consciously didn’t analyse the clues until there were too many for her to be able to deny it any longer.
There were a couple of occasions where the two male characters would use a phrase that made me frown and grit my teeth. “The women folk” being one of them. But overall this book dealt with its “women folk” very well. All three female characters are intelligent, strong, opinionated and brave. Even, and maybe especially, the 10 year old one. In fact, all of the characters were well done. The proof of realistic characters for me is when i like and hate something about all of them, and it held perfectly true for every character in this book. They also all evolved over the course of the book. Their experiences affected them, gradually and believably. Some in wonderful, positive ways; others in dark, twisted and detrimental ways.
Minor dislikes that prevented this book getting a full five stars are easily overlooked, but still have to count. There were several small moments of inconsistencies. Someone getting up when there had been no mention of them sitting down; little things like that. A half-arsed attempt at a romantic sub-plot that was forced, had no grounding and no point. Slightly too long an introduction to the characters, surroundings and post-apocalyptic world, considering many of the details are left out in order for more meaningful and dramatic reveals later on.
I enjoyed and couldn’t put down the book all the way through, but i knew, really, that my opinion of the book as a whole would hinge on the ending. It couldn’t be typical, or easy–the unusual elements this books includes demands a more complex and considered ending. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint. The ending, again, was reminiscent of I Am Legend, in that it’s bleak, imperfect, but ultimately hopeful. It just requires you to allow your perception of a happy ending to be looked at in a slightly different light.