My mom and I have decided to do the book club thing; however, she is hustling through the novels so far, and I’m taking my dear sweet time. She got to choose the first book we did, so for my choice, I picked a nice, lovely book about the end of the world (timely, no?).
The thing about the horror genre is that I believe the point of every story is to show the audience what the creator is afraid of and ask whether that might also scare the reader/viewer. And while there are zombies (“Hungries”) aplenty in the novel, the novel is about the changing of society. What happens after everything has long since fallen and the handful of survivors are forced to do things that may go past the line in the world before (or even this world).
Zombie stories have a lot of baggage to carry with them at this point. The Walking Dead has been on the air for more than a decade at this point. I’m sure that everyone has their own zombie story (heck I do… I just haven’t written it yet). With all of that comes the need to look at the genre from a slightly different angle.
So what if there was a little girl who was really smart. A little girl who was fascinated by the Greek myths. A little girl who adores her teacher Miss Justineau.
Oh, and by the way, a little girl who is basically a zombie (“Hungry”) who just happens to be able to think and speak and do pretty much anything else a little girl might normally do, except lose her mind when she smells human flesh.
You know, just a little thing.
What M.R. Carey does a great job of is really showing us this world through Melanie’s eyes for the first handful of chapters. As the reader, we know that things are normal (even if we may not completely know what he is at this point), but because we live for so long through only her, we not only get a really good look at why she thinks what she thinks, but also how she’s been institutionalized by this strange life she’s living. She knows nothing different, and can’t yearn for much more than what she has.
And that’s the real question at the heart of the book: Is Melanie a monster or a little girl or something else entirely?
It can be a bit heartbreaking to have her work through these revelations herself. When she’s considering the same questions the readers are considering, it makes determining the answer that much more difficult than if we couldn’t see into her thought process. To read how she can feel the hunger within her take over completely and have that moment always in the back of her thoughts when she is dealing with the others of her little world. How can you protect those you love when you can’t trust yourself.
And trust is at a premium throughout the novel. Melanie can’t trust the Doctor. The Doctor can’t trust the Sergeant. The Sergeant isn’t sure about Melanie.
The other twist of the novel is how much science enters into the story. The author takes us through the reasons why all of this is happening and how. Where so many zombie stories handwave the WHY, it was a nice addition to the story and played a very important part in the development of the world.
One of the best compliments I can say about The Girl With All The Gifts is that I was reminded of I Am Legend a few times. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say any more.
John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.
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