I have been duped and I really hate that feeling.
M.R Carey’s The Girl With All The Gifts is the kind of book that I never and I mean NEVER read. Why? Simply put, it’s a zombie tale and I loathe zombie stories. In my mind, and I really do appreciate that readers everywhere will disagree with me, there is nothing to your average zombie story. Armageddon style event, normally comprising of a virus that transmutes into something more sinister, wipes out humanity as we know it. Only a few ‘humans’ survive to fight and continue the human race. Yes, there will be romance and even comedy, but sadly most of these zombie stories are formulaic beyond belief. So why, for the love of all that is good, was I persuaded into reading just such a zombie story?
Now, as you may remember, I like to buy my books from my local independent bookstore rather than the behemoth that is Amazon. However, Amazon wishlists are very helpful tools when it comes to trying to remember book recommendations, particularly for one as electronically challenged as I. A friend of mine recommended The Girl With All The Gifts, to me whilst I was out and about, so I searched for it on Amazon. Well, wouldn’t you know it, there it was sectioned between The Fifteen Lives of Harry August and The Night Circus, both of which I had absolutely loved. Hoorah! Thinks I, my next read. Surely this is going to be different?
I’ve been complaining a lot recently about books where the main protagonist is fundamentally unlikeable and this book fairs a little better on that score, but not by much. It’s difficult to say too much about this story without giving it all away and Lord knows that zombie stories have pitifully few surprises as it is! I can share that the story starts on a military base and focuses on a ‘child’ named Melanie, who nobody touches or gets too close to. Somehow, amidst this threatening backdrop, Melanie forms a relationship with one of her teachers, Miss Justineau and so the story begins to unfold as this unlikely pair forge a bond. As with all zombie stories, things begin to take a turn for the worse and along with two officers and a doctor, Justineau and Melanie find themselves on the run making their way back to civilization.
The descriptions of ‘post-event’ England are vivid and there is no doubt at all that M.R Carey can spin a tale, I actively enjoyed the journey with the characters through the south east of England, the problem was the frequency of zombies. Even for a reader such as myself, the book did keep me going in the same way that you might not be able to stop watching an action movie. But the ending….. Oh! The ending. I’m so disappointed in it. It has been two days now since I finished with this book and I still find myself annoyed. This said, I’m not exactly brimming with ideas on how I would have done it differently, but to my way of thinking, the ending of this book is nothing more than and unfulfilling reworking of Heart of Darkness. Now, grant you, I haven’t read Heart of Darkness in many years, but to this day the ending of that novel has stayed with me as the most chilling and brilliantly conceived culmination to any novel that I have ever read, so to find, essentially the same ending at the culmination of a zombie novel…. well, I think you can imagine how I might feel about that.
All ranting aside, and truly I can feel my blood beginning to boil on this matter, I do think that this is probably a book that one might enjoy if:
- You love a good zombie romp
- You have never read Heart of Darkness
- You are married to me (yes, The Husband will be finding it on his bedside table shortly)
However, to describe this book, as it does on the cover as “The most original thriller you will read this year” fair makes my head want to spin off!