The Girl With All the Gifts was an audio book for me, and frankly, it was made great by the narration of Finty Williams. This science fiction novel is not completely mired down in it’s “sci-fi-ness” (a plus for me). While certainly not of the world as we know it, writer M. R. Carey’s characters seem realistic enough.
The book begins with Melanie - a delicate child living in a cell. She’s chained to a chair, eats once a week, participates in school with other children, and is extraordinarily intelligent. We find out rather quickly that Melanie and the other 20 or so students are “hungries” - not quite living and not quite dead. So yes, I unwittingly read a zombie book.
The story begins far into the future - a dystopian England where all advanced technology has been destroyed, and healthy humans live within an enclosed environment or protected military outpost. There is a constant fear of attack from any measure of creature outside the walls, whether gangs of scavengers or hungries. Melanie is there it seems, as an experiment - kept under complete control for both social and medical research for the heartless Dr. Caldwell to find a cure. When the base where Melanie is housed is attacked and overrun, somehow Dr. Caldwell, the angry commanding sergeant, a rather witless soldier, a nurturing teacher, and Melanie manage to escape. The ensuing journey is a long game of cat and mouse - running from the hungries and trying not to kill each other.
Even with all of this, the book is more of care and nurturing between Melanie and her teacher, Ms. Justineau. Melanie has never known parents or even had physical contact of any kind. Ms. Justineau sees in Melanie a curious, sweet, and intelligent child that simply needs love. And though they must both learn to control their impulses - in Melanie’s case quite deadly - they find common ground.
The characters were well crafted enough that I forgot about the flimsy plot. It did, however, end rather abruptly, and left me wanting for a more pleasant conclusion. I’m no zombie expert, but overall I’d say The Girl With All the Gifts did well for the genre.
Vickie’s rating: 3 stars