Dystopian Love Story: “The Girl With All the Gifts”, by M. R. Carey - Book Review

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.

Published: 2014
Publisher: Orbit

Vickie’s rating: 3 stars 

Offbeat and Fun with “Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits”, by David Wong - Book Review

This has to be the strangest and one of the most fun books I’ve read. And I would never had picked it up had it not been for a youngin’ at work. He was describing the morbidly funny t.v. shows and books he’s into. None sound appealing, but he was pretty passionate about David Wong. I think I probably wanted to be in with the cool kids. Just a little. I bought it, then it sat around for a long time. Okay, finally picked it up. And am so glad I did. 

“Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits” takes place, as the title gives away, sometime in the future. There are references to today’s political landscape that help shape it. There are self driving cars (manual is illegal), video screens everywhere, and bizarre superpowers.  We still have stores like Lane Bryant (I didn’t even think they were around today) and television like National Geographic. Our tale takes place primarily in Tabula Ra$a. Yep, that’s a dollar sign instead of the “s”, which is a clear indication of the city’s decadence. 

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The End of Civilization As We Know It in "Station Eleven", by Emily St. John Mandel - Book Review

Station Eleven’s storyline seamlessly moves between present day and the post-apocalyptic world that remains after most of the human population is decimated by a catastrophic world-wide pandemic. In a strangely non- "end of the world" book fashion, it starts off in the midst of a Shakespeare play and the Bard, through his works, seems to almost become a character in the story. 

Station Eleven
By Emily St. John Mandel

Through a masterful use of flashbacks and foreshadowing, author Emily St. John Mandel weaves a complicated tale, involving numerous characters and relationships that she wraps up so neatly at the end you feel as though you’ve been given a beautiful present. And her representations of what the end of life as we know it would be are so realistic; they are as believable as they are frightening.

Operating in the new world under a theory that “survival is insufficient,” those still alive have to face an existence that most of us have never contemplated much less lived. The desperate circumstances the characters face turn them into killers at times, but we understand that it is necessary for the greater good and are shockingly unbothered by it. Despite the bleak landscape of the "years after", Mandel’s story is one of hopefulness of the human spirit. One that has us believing that good will prevail against the evil that lurks close by, and that life will find a way no matter what. 

A finalist and/or winner for multiple prestigious awards, this post apocalyptic tale reads like classic literature, and is absolutely worthy of your time.

Published: 2014
Publisher: Knopf/Vintage Books

Elizabeth's rating: 5 stars