The Girl with All the Gifts written by M. R. Carey instantly caught my attention not only with its beautiful bright orange book cover, but because of its unusual blurb:
“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.”
From this brief synopsis, I imagined the novel to be about some kind of hybrid criminal child but I was completely mistaken. Although it’s described as being a thriller, it didn’t make any allusions to being an apocalyptic story – which to me, seems to mislead the reader. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it all the same.
The fast pace drags you through the novel in a series of heartbeats. Carey had a knack for creating suspense. The abusive, cold behaviour towards the child protagonist Melanie and her peers really made me question why she was treated with such hostility. This was a novel that teased you with clues and always kept your thoughts spinning.
What I appreciate the most is Carey’s characterisation. Melanie and the other children grew up on the army base and cannot remember anything else but their lives there and the lessons given by Miss Justineau. The author made Melanie’s voice very distinct, convincing me of her childishness and of her genius. Carey used an omniscient narrative switching between major characters. For me, this technique blurred the lines of antagonism and heroism. Who you assumed to be a nasty, evil character would be humanised in your eyes by their stream of consciousness. Carey would reveal the unethical behaviour of the characters and you would still find a way to empathise with them and try to understand their motives, something I think we all should apply to reality.
I also liked that the relationships in the novel felt natural, especially with the relationship between Melanie and Miss Justineau. I think their bond was a distorted unconditional family love.
Another aspect of the novel which I enjoyed was of Carey’s disregard for the reader’s stomach. The author wrote raw, visceral scenes that were gory enough to have been in The Walking Dead. I found quite a few similarities between the novel and this TV thriller, and Carey mentions the show in his interview. When characters needed to kill apocalyptic creatures my mind was stuck in The Walking Dead universe and I had to remind myself that the two pieces were different. To me, this proves that The Girl With All The Gifts would make a good screenplay or comic, it was very visually engaging to say the least. Melanie’s fascination with Greek mythology also interested me as I share that love. Carey cleverly mixed Greek myth with a futuristic world which worked really well.
One of the things I disliked about the novel was the use of scientific jargon. Yes, I know it’s common to Sci-fi, but it bores me and turns my mind off completely. This could have been cut down a bit to confuse me less and to sustain the fast pace. I also think Carey could have waited longer to give answers to the audience. I think having only the narrative of Melanie and her ignorance would have achieved this. I would have rated this novel higher if the ending hadn’t been rushed. There was an intelligent ending, but it just felt like Carey was rushing through other plot-lines to get there. Besides this, most of the novel was enjoyable.