Book Review: The Girl With All The Gifts

by M. R. Carey

The Girl With All The Gifts is about how humans and zombies alike navigate the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse and the ever-dwindling non-infected population. It takes place years after the first spores of the zombie fungus spread. The non-infected observe that not everyone that is infected reacts the same way to the infection.

And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both. But you have to open it to find that out.

Some become immediately overcome by the infection–they can’t think, they don’t talk, they don’t even walk unless there’s a smell or a sound that attracts them. Other infected have somehow retained certain memories and act without regard for the infection. They sing old songs on repeat or push a baby carriage down the road or even have sex. Still others retain full capacity to learn and speak and act otherwise normal. Well, except for the one thing they all have in common: the hunger.

The moment a “hungry,” as the infected are called, smells any type of flesh, but human flesh in particular, they are virtually unable to control the basic instinct to feed. Their mouths make gnashing movements, they drool, they lunge at the smell. To protect themselves, then, the humans wear “e-blocker” or mud, or tar, or any other substance that will mask the scent. They double apply wherever it is strongest: arm pits, crotches.

There are two classes of non-infected as well. Military personnel, doctors and others sort of working with the government to find a cure/contain the infection are all in one class. The “junkers” are in another. These folks have chosen to attempt to survive without the help of the government. They live in the streets, not on military bases. Extremely skilled in the art of survival, they have concocted ways to skirt hungries and live amongst them.

One day, without a lot of explanation as to why, a group of junkers weaponize the hungries. They stage a coup on a military base. The hungries quickly overwhelm the base. Years of research on the infection is lost. The inhabitants of the base flee and most die.

There were a couple dozen infected kids at the base. These kids attended school there and were used as test subjects. One such hungry kid, Melanie, was extremely smart and smitten with her teacher, Miss Justineau. During the coup, Melanie, despite her infection, protected Miss Justineau. Saved her life by taking her first bites of junker flesh. From then on, it’s Miss Justineau, Melanie, a sergeant from the base, and a doctor scientist who’d been conducting research at the base, trying to survive.

They struggle through largely abandoned London streets with less and less e-blocker available. Melanie, who can learn quickly and retain everything, takes in the world around her. She had no previous memory of the world and everything she’d known about it, her teachers at the base taught her. She comes to the realization that she, too, is a hungry. Somehow, she hadn’t put it together before.

She’s lived in Plato’s cave, staring at the shadows on the wall. Now she’s been turned around to face the fire.

Days into their attempt to get to another base, they are out of e-blocker. They have no cover. The doctor is obsessed with trying to preserve research and do more research; she’s not really on their side anymore. The sergeant is losing hope. Without Melanie, Miss Justineau is utterly helpless against the hungries.

Melanie discovers a hoard of hungries like her. They haven’t had what she’s had – an education, “love”. They don’t speak, they grunt, but they’re smart. Watching them, Melanie sees they’ve developed a different kind of language. So what is Melanie to do? The serg, Miss Justineu, the doctor, they all want to kill these hungries. Maybe there’s a way to save everyone. Maybe the world just needs to accept what it has become.

You can’t save people from the world. There’s nowhere else to take them.

You’ll have to read the book to find out. It’s worth reading. I enjoyed the way M. R. Carey describes the infection and its spread. There’s a lot of science (written in an understandable language). The ending is very interesting and thought-provoking. I highly recommend the book! It’s also apparently a movie, which I need to watch.

Interested in reading it? I got the book from my local bookstore, so if you’re in NYC, pick it up at Book Culture! Otherwise, you can buy it from Amazon here.

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