The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the GiftsPaperback, 416 pages
Published June 10th 2014

Once upon a time, I was watching a BBC’s Planet Earth, which is fantastic, and it was talking about insects. During my time watching it, I realized two things.

1. Even though I don’t want them near me, insects are very cool, resilient, and amazing little creatures. I gained a new found respect for them. A respect that will remain, as long as they don’t come near me.

2. I learned about Cordyceps for the first time and it was freaking amazing. Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that is specialization in almost zombie like behaviour. When a host, let’s say an ant, is affected by this fungi (sorry I couldn’t resist) it makes the ant start behaving in a weird manner. Then the cordyceps breaks through the ant’s head and erupts, sending its little spores out in the open world where they can find their next victim. Ah, nature is amazing, especially when it’s narrated by David Attenborough. – (the link shows the cordyceps in action, if you’re interested)

What does this have to do with “The Girl with All the Gifts?” Well, it’s simple really, this book deals with an evolved form of the cordyceps that now likes to have a fun time in humans.

It creates zombies, basically.

This isn’t the first time that cordyceps have been used in this manner for zombie fiction, (the popular video game ‘The Last of Us’ also uses this amazing little fungus too), but when it comes to The Girl with All the Gifts, the moment they started talking about cordyceps this and cordyceps that, I knew that I was going to love this novel. I mean, did you see what it did to that ant?

The book, in itself, starts off on a strong note. We’re introduced to Melanie, a special ten year old girl who lives in this undergroundish facility. Just like normal ten year olds, Melanie loves learning new things and going to school. Every morning, the Sergeant comes into her room and points a gun to her head, while another officer gets her strapped into a wheelchair. She jokes that she won’t bite, but no one laughs when she says this. The same is done to the other kids in this facility. Other than school, the kids eat once a week, of a meal of worms, and get this showers that burns their eyes.

Melanie doesn’t really care for the showers, but she loves everything else about the school, especially Miss Justineau, one of her teachers. The only thing Melanie wants in life is to be with Miss Justineau and to protect her.

At this point of the novel, I was really digging this. Melanie’s voice rang true and even though nothing is spelled out, you could tell that something was amiss in this little community of strapped up kids. Once the facility is raided, the story starts to shift and become more of a survival traveling book and more points of view started to pop up. I didn’t mind this at first, but I really liked Melanie and wanted to see more from her. The other four characters were fine in their own right, but they did feel a bit clichéd and one note times. While Melanie was full of life and substance, some of the others felt very predictable. There was the evil scientist, the strong solider, the cowardly solider, the moral compass, and then Melanie.

There were times when I was reading this portion of the novel and kept thinking to myself, “Ah, I wonder what’s going on in the facility? I wonder how the other kids are faring and what they plan to do.”

The ending was fantastic though and Melanie’s realization on what she is and her purpose was fun to see. The middle portion could have been cut a bit though, which is why this isn’t getting a perfect score. The first part was great, the middle was okay, and the ending was fantastic!

The research that went into this novel was also really well done. You could tell that Carey did his homework on cordyceps and what they do. I also liked how his zombies retained some aspects of their former lives. So you’ll see one walking her baby or another one singing a song.

Overall: Even though the middle portion was slow at times and some of the characters were not as fleshed out as I would have liked, I enjoyed this. Zombies are always fun to read about and I love all this cordyceps (I mean, did you see what it did to those insects? AMAZING!) I don’t think this book will work for everyone, but if you like zombies, science, and reading post-apocalyptic worlds then you might find yourself liking The Girl with All the Gifts.

Novel was provided by netgalley

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