Friday, 12 August, 2022

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The Girl with All the Gifts



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Mike Carey manages to dodge all the obvious clichés while building a post-apocalyptic world that crawls into the reader’s heart and refuses to leave long after the last page is turned.

Before I start writing about this book, I must give you a little warning. What you are about to read in the next paragraphs may seem as a spoiler. I don’t believe this is a spoiler (and even if it is, then it’s not a major one, because this is a piece of information the reader understands fast enough), but since in the past few years the hostility towards anything that might look like a spoiler developed into a new religion, I rather warn you than be caught in a battle with forces a cannot win. So if you belong to the dreadful sons of spoiler, stop. Do not read this post, do not scroll down, and do not read its tags.

So what are you saying? Anyone here? Did you have the guts to stick around? Then let me have a second to get it off my system:


Yes, we are talking about a zombies book. I can fully understand why the publishers are doing all they can to hide this piece of information, because Mike Carey is developing his plot in a way that makes the readers come to realize the zombie angle of the story by themselves, but as the moment of revelation comes so early and it is insignificant (the moment itself, not the zombies) for the real story in this book, that you will have to believe me that this little piece of information won’t ruin the book for you. Another reason I am allowing myself to open the subject of zombies in this book is this trailer for the movie based book, which is due to arrive the theaters this September and reveals much more. Actually, as someone that saw the trailer before reading the book (BTW, spoiler alert), I can say that knowing didn’t spoil my reading experience.

So, after all those long words, it is time we talk about the book. Wow, what a book. I can honestly say it is the best zombies book I have ever read, though it’s not that hard because it is the first zombies book I have ever read. I could never really understand the source of attraction to those brain-dead monsters. Aside from a short period of a light addiction to the game Plant vs. Zombies, I don’t think I ever suffered much enthusiasm about the subject. I don’t know what it says about me, but of all the monsters lurking out there, I am more of a vampire person.

Anyway, a few months back I attended a lecture about what were declared as the hottest monsters of the second decade of the 21st century. The (fascinating) lecture managed to change the way I thought about the subject and sent me looking for the local neighborhood zombie. After rethinking, I have decided I am not quite ready for the real thing, and eventually found myself in front of iZombie, DC Comics’s fun and self-aware comic/detective series. And then, when I thought I was through with this weird zombie attack, I stumbled upon the movie trailer of The Girl with All the Gifts. Before the titles went off the screen I already ordered the book.

This is the story of Melanie. She is only 10 years old, but it is easy to forget how young she is when you learn to know her closely. Melanie lives in a post-apocalyptic world that follows a zombies’ plague, but she doesn’t have such an awful life. She has her own cell and she studies every day in class with all her fellow students. If it is a particularly good day, she might have classes with Miss Justineau. Too bad she has to stay strapped to her chair all day long. What else can I tell you without giving away more than I should? Not much, except for what you can probably guess – something is going to go wrong. Because this is what happens in classic zombies books, and even though this book is not that classic in his approach to the zombies, it would have been much shorter if everything would go as planned.

As you would expect from an author that comes from the world of graphic novels (among others, he wrote the wonderful Unwritten series that someday I’ll have the time to write about), M.R. Carey manages to tell his story in a rather visual way, forcing the reader to feel the horror in more than just one of his senses, as appropriate in a book that the senses themselves play a big part in. The reader can actually smell the stench of the heroes fear, taste the sour flavor of despair, hear the thumping of their hearts and see the horrors they are exposed to, as he becomes a full companion of their inner and outer journey. Carey makes no shortcuts. Not to himself, not to his protagonists, and especially not to his readers, as he brings them into the secrets of the terrible world he has created. He drives the plot and twirls it around his readers, and the second the least expect it, he knocks them out, dropping them on the floor, as a ripe pray, waiting to be picked.

To conclude, one of those rare books that leave you with your mouth open when they are done and doesn’t get out of your head. Or in other words – wow!

Five mushrooms and one girl filled with gifts.

The Girl with All the Gifts / M.R. Carey / Orbit Books Publishing

the girl with all the gifts cover

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