Review: The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey

Book Jacket Summary

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Review

That book jacket summary is great, and the opening of the book is equally great. It's a slow introduction to a strange world. You're plopped in the middle of it, deep in the perspective of someone who takes it for granted, so you have to take clues and piece the world together. The pacing of the reveal is perfect, questions raised, questions answered, until you finally get it. It starts in a close point of view in Melanie's head, and I think the author really nails the voice, gets deep into the inner workings of a kid's mind.

So that covers about the first third of the book.

And then it all sort of fell apart for me. I think it comes down to two things:

First, the pacing changes drastically. We pretty much have all the answers at this point, so there's very little mystery driving us forward. There's one more looming question, but it is lost in the background. Instead, the story becomes a long action sequence as the characters try to make their way from point A to point B through a dangerous landscape.

Second, the point of view drifts higher, so we're no longer tightly bound to the characters. Their motivations are mostly survival, so their earlier motivations that made them such compelling characters take a back seat to the immediate action, and I stopped caring about anyone in the book.

Right up until the end, and the end was pretty great. So, you've got a great first third, and a great couple of chapters at the end, filled with a poorly paced adventure/travel story in the middle.

In the end, I think the opening is so well done, it's worth a read, but be prepared for a monotonous middle.

Spoilers

Okay, so I've been being pretty vague up until now because I think the mystery of what is happening in the book's world is well worth preserving. Notice in the jacket summary, there's nothing specific. Why is this little girl, who's apparently a genius, being kept in a cell, having guns pointed at her as they strap her into a wheelchair? Why won't they talk to her? It's all very intriguing. And learning the answers to those questions is the main reason to read this book. So. If you're planning on reading it, stop here.

Last chance.

Okay. Here we go.

For the love of God, can everyone please stop writing about zombies? If I had known, I never would have picked this book up. How many zombie plots do we really need? That shit is played out. It's been played out for years. There's an interesting twist to it The Girl with All the Gifts, but c'mon. Zombies?

This is supernatural horror. Supernatural. You can do literally anything you want. Make up anything that you want. So for Christ's sake, stop rehashing the same three monsters.

Here's an interesting map of monster myths in the United States that @Amazing_Maps posted to Twitter a while ago. If you're thinking of writing about zombies or vampires or werewolves, please take a look, or google around for others, or just use your imagination and make something up, and please, please, no more books about zombies.