If you think there’s nothing new in the world of zombie novels, you might want to think again.
M.R. Carey proves that there is something new in the world of the undead with The Girl With All the Gifts.
Melanie is a special little girl. Each morning, she’s strapped into a contraption much like the one used on Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs and wheeled into a classroom, where a rotating series of teachers will be to educate her and her classmates. Melanie’s favorite teacher is Miss Justineau, who is less distant from the class than the other teachers and more willing to bend the rules and go outside the core curriculum with the students.
The secret is that Melanie and her fellow students are zombies. But they’re not the standard brain-eating, mindless zombies. Instead, they’re a group who can learn and actually have some higher brain function that is normally the case in zombie presentations. But don’t worry — Melanie and this group of young children are the exception rather than the rule and there are other types of attacking zombies out there, even if they’re not necessarily the mindless brain-eating type made popular by The Walking Dead.
Like an onion, Carey peels backs the layers of his story with each layer revealing something else underneath and opening up new avenues for exploration. After starting off with the mystery of how Melanie is and why she’s being educated in this fashion, Carey reveals the nature of the zombie disease and just how far the world has fallen as well as looking at what humanity is doing to try and survive. Setting the novel a couple of decades after the initial outbreak helps drive some of the last half of the novel as Melanie, Miss Justineau and several others from the base are forced to go out on the road and try to find sanctuary elsewhere.
Carey deftly balances sections of suspense as the group struggles to survive with sections that serve to develop our insight into the characters and this world. Short chapters help the novel move along at a nice pace and allow us to spend time with each character of the party. Carey pulls of the trick of allowing us to understand each character’s motivation even if we aren’t necessarily meant to like them or agree with what they’re doing.
The final product is a fascinating, compelling character-driven zombie story that actually manages to break some new and interesting ground in the genre. If you’re looking for something different to read this summer, I can’t recommend The Girl With All the Gifts enough.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.