Hardcover, 416 pages
Expected publication: June 10th 2014 by Orbit
Source: Hachette Canada
When I request The Girl With All the Gifts, I did so under the impression that it was a fantasy novel. I am quite comfortable with fantasy novels since fantasy is my preferred genre. Imagine my surprise when I started reading the novel and found out, to my horror (pun possibly intended), that the book is about zombies. I hate zombies; they scare the bejeezus out of me and I try to avoid reading about them if I can help it. So being tricked into reading them was not something I appreciated at all. The point of a synopsis, after all, is to let the reader know what the book is about and I would have appreciated the heads up.
That said, I did manage to read the entire book while being creeped out by it. I haven’t read anything in the genre; post-apocalyptic fiction is a genre I do not actively seek out. However, I must say this, for all my whinging, The Girl With All the Gifts is thought provoking and well written. The kind of thoughts that lead to nightmares but still, the book makes you think because it presents an entirely viable and possible epidemic that sweeps over the human race turning them into hungries (as the zombies are known here) and those that the disease leaves unaffected become food for those who are.
Melanie is a second generation hungry. This is not a spoiler. She is kept by the military for test purposes by the mad scientist – a woman who seems to have stopped existing anything but a scientist. She is taught in a classroom by Miss Justineau who battles with her conscience while she teaches what everyone considers the little monsters. The military camp is attacked by people of the hobo kind who have organized themselves into an sizeable army for reasons that remain unknown. This leads to Miss Justineau, a sergeant, the mad scientist (Dr. Caldwell), a soldier and Melanie on the run. They are running towards a city where presumably the rest of the humanity that survived the zombie disease live. The novel largely focuses on this journey.
The research is well done and for someone who took two classes about fungi and has spent many hours studying the mycelia of various fungi, this book was freaking nightmarish because I could visualize in alarming detail the appearance of the zombies as the disease progressed. In fact, one of the scenes where the human is split by a growing wall of fungi just made me stop reading and tremble.
So yeah, the novel is well researched and well written. The pacing did seem slow at times but on the whole, the book was thrilling in one of those, omg, I’m going to die, aren’t I ways. The ending had the most remarkable effect on me and it fit the overall tone of the novel. I can’t discuss it in detail for obvious reasons but I will say that the ending was what made the novel for me. It elevated the novel from being simply a thriller to a book that considered possibilities and took the most realistic but least comforting path.
Do I recommend it? Yeah, if zombies are your thing, sure. Go for it. As for me, I’m going to pretend it didn’t happen and eat the hell out of all mushrooms I can find as revenge. Yeah.