In some ways, The Girl with All the Gifts is a straightforward zombie thriller. Cue lots of painfully tense moments, epic chase scenes and, of course, its fair share of blood and gore. But in many ways, Carey does something completely different with the genre, and it had me hooked.
She’s top of her class, she loves stories and, like most ten year olds, Melanie has lots of questions. What’s behind the door at the end of the corridor? And what happened to her parents? But most importantly: what is she?
Like Melanie, you gradually piece together a chilling view of post-apocalyptic Britain. It has been two decades since ‘The Breakdown’ and the only remaining city, Beacon, is surrounded by enormous fences to protect against the terrifying ‘hungries’. Melanie’s classroom is a few hundred miles away on an army base dedicated to a mysterious experiment. But it’s not long until the solid parameters of her small world are breached. Forced out into the wild, the last survivors from the base make a desperate attempt to reach Beacon.
Although there are a few minor lapses in the quality of the prose, Carey’s novel is relentless. Every chapter hurtles full speed into the next as the sinister truth starts to emerge. In the wake of each plot twist, though, I couldn’t help feeling that some elements of the story got left behind and the somewhat abrupt ending left me in two minds.
But it’s no bad thing to be left thinking by a novel. In fact, each chapter focuses on a different character’s perspective, bringing a refreshingly emotional force to a genre that is so often fuelled by adrenaline. As a result, The Girl with All the Gifts asks surprisingly uncomfortable questions about humanity.
For what could have been ‘just another zombie story’, Carey’s complex characters and gripping plot line makes The Girl with All the Gifts an original and exciting read.