96 of 103 people found the following review helpful
It's difficult to know what to say about The Girl With All The Gifts without spoiling a twist that occurs early on in the novel and governs the entirety of the story from then on, but I think I'm safe to say that this story is set in an imagined dystopia, where huge population loss has decimated Britain and the few survivors hang on in military bases. On one of these bases lives ten-year-old Melanie, who spends most of her time in a cell and the rest in a classroom, where she soaks up information, especially Miss Justineau's stories of Greek mythology. But she and her fellow pupils are treated like dangerous animals, shackled to their seats and hosed down with disinfectant every Sunday. To Melanie, this is normal, but the reader realises within the first few pages that something is wrong...
This is a gripping and well-written thriller that runs along familiar lines, but manages to rise above its competitors by the sheer effectiveness of its storytelling and its careful handling of the central character, Melanie. I find that using child narrators is a very risky business, as it's so easy for the author to depict a child as twee, unrealistically naive, or sickeningly perceptive and honest. The depiction of Melanie, however, is almost entirely successful. This is partly due to her secret, which steers her depiction away from the usual cliches of childhood, partly due to the fact that she is not the only narrator, and partly because she does not narrate in first person, so MR Carey does not have to attempt the 'voice of a child'. I still had some niggles about her presentation, such as the story she writes early on in the novel, which does not read to me as the work of a ten-year-old with a 'genius-level' IQ, but as the work of a younger child with this level of ability. However, this can possibly be explained by the fact that we do not know how long Melanie has been in education. Still, I felt a little uneasy about her flawless moral code, and I could never relate to her quite as closely as I could to the other characters.
Fortunately, the rest of the cast are satisfyingly individual. Miss Justineau is the most traditionally likeable, but I found myself increasingly fascinated by the two soldiers and, especially, by the most morally suspect member of the crew, scientist Caroline Caldwell. I could never quite tell whether Caroline was meant to be the villain, fulfilling a 'mad scientist' stereotype, but I hope not, because I found her much more interesting as a 'grey' character. Although Caroline oversteps a certain moral line at least once during this novel, I found that I was still broadly sympathetic to her, and understood why she adopted the mindset she did to do the job she had to do. Her final futile discovery is a fitting end to her journey, and she performs the role of antagonist in the narrative without descending into cackling evil. This is a key addition to Carey's story, and I don't think that the novel would have worked nearly as well without her.
I would recommend this novel both to established SF fans and to those who do not usually read SF. Unlike most novels with a twist in the tale, it delivers fully upon what it promises, and does not rely on gimmicks to supply its consistently mounting tension. It should also have considerable crossover potential for young adult readers. Good stuff.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Thank you to Little Brown for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review
Every so often I read a book that totally floors me, like wow WTF did that come from?, The Girl with all the Gifts is one of those books.
It had been on my TBR pile for a while but now it's not and in a way that makes me sad as I wish I could read the story again for the first time but also I am exceptionally happy as this is one hell of a story, I suppose I better stop gushing and start explaining why this is getting 5 stars.
Now the one thing I did not realise about this book before I read it was its dystopian setting, I missed that one! The dystopian-ness (can this be a word?!!!) sneaks up on you, when the book kicks off it isn't apparent straight away when/where the setting is but it soon becomes obvious that something is a little off.
Melanie lives in a world where every day is the same, she goes to school, she learns with her class mates. Normal, right? Well not quite, she travels to school not by bus but under armed guard strapped down in a wheel chair from her cell. This is not a normal school and Melanie is not a normal little girl.
She is exceptionally clever and loves to learn, she watches and takes in everything.and everyone. She especially loves the time spent with her favourite teacher Miss Justineau. She is the nicest and most playful of the all the teachers and Melanie feels protective towards her, the feeling is mutual.
Melanie notices that her class mates disappear from time to time, where do they go and why do they never come back? Does the creepy Dr Caldwell know anything about it? What is wrong with Melaine and her classmates, why are they kept under lock and key, why do soldiers watch their every move?
Well lets expand this world further, well there is not much world left for a start, what's left is the compound in which Melanie and her friends are held, with a small amount of soldiers and civilians, it is an island in a sea of horror. The population has been attacked by a virus which has turned most of them in to rampant zombie-esque creatures but some of them are different, some still have their full faculties despite the fact they crave flesh. These exceptions appears normal, they could be anyone, they could even be a little girl.
The story does not stay within the confines of the compound, s*** does hit the fan and Melanie, Miss Justineau, the horrible Sergeant Parks and Dr Caldwell form an unlikely team as they journey away from danger in to extreme peril.
I can't really tell you any more about this story because it'll get spoilt for you, but what can I tell you? It is just incredible, our motley crew struggle on their way keeping out of the way of the "hungries" who would have them for their next meal, staying out of the road of the junkers who sound like something straight out of Mad Max and also keeping out of the way of each other, tensions are running high, their lives are at stake, can they find a safe haven?
The Girl with all the Gifts is simply immense, I read the last hundred or so pages last night, I was glued, it pulls at your heart strings, prepare to have your emotions put through the ringer. Also prepare to be scared!
I love dystopia but this is nothing like I have ever read before, I feel a little bereft after finishing it but in the words of Dr Seuss "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened". Read it!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2014
This was a very difficult review to write. I have a lot of feelings, that I haven’t yet untangled. But I want to let out some of this emotion in the form of this review. I have a lot to say, but I can’t say too much – the details of this book have been so wrapped up by the publishers that it would feel a shame to spoil anymore than they would like. I will say that I was looking forward to this book from the moment it was announced, spurred on by my love of Mike Carey’s Lucifer graphic novels. And now, this looks to be one of my favourite for the year – already!
Melanie and the children are not like other children. They stay in their rooms when not in class, which is led by one of four different teachers. There, they are taught the geography of England and the world – both things they have never seen. In fact, they have never seen anything but their cells, and their classroom. They know where freedom, whatever that is, lies – at the end of the corridor, behind a steel door. But when children are wheeled out of there, they never seem to come back…
Oh, and that’s the other thing. Whenever the children are taken to class, or to shower and eat (a once a week event), they are strapped into wheelchairs (despite the fact they can walk just fine), which neck straps and all. This is all done by a soldier, while two others watch on, guns pointed at the children’s heads.
Melanie’s world is not the world as we know it.
Nor is it the world as she knows it, come to think of it. She has never seen sky, and, until the day Miss Justineau forgets herself and strokes the little girl’s hair, has never felt human contact before. Even with her genius level IQ, she just doesn’t understand – from the big questions, like why they can’t go outside, to why their drunken teacher tells them the population density of Birmingham doesn’t matter, because the population of Birmingham is really 0. But…that’s not what they should be being taught.
This is a twisting book. It runs circles, and then double backs on you. It’s a quiet book, for sure, especially given its subject matter, but it’s got a lot of weight in it.
Spoilers in the following paragraph – not huge ones, just enough if you wanted to go into this book blindly. You can skip the next paragraph, and read ahead instead, if you don’t want any info.
But this is a (this is the naughty word) zombie novel at its most basic level. What I liked was the fact it isn’t a shooting and bloody book. The zombies, as physical beings, are not the matter here – mostly their effect on a mental level is what matters. Because there are mysteries here – existential, as well as medical. While Dr Caldwell, the last remaining scientist with a slight chance, who only has this facility that the children are on, is hellbent on finding the cure, she is inadequately equipped. And there are many more problems than that later in the book.
Back to spoiler free waters, the book is also about the care and protection of a young child. It is about a troubling and complicated friendship between Miss Justineau, who is trying to absolve herself from former sins, and Melanie, who puts them all in danger, but is full of platonic infatuation for her caring teacher – the only one to ever show her affection.
Then there’s Parks, a soldier at his core, who finds himself faced with difficult decisions and difficult decisions. He starts off a bastard that you slowly come to care for. And Gallagher, who is under Park’s command, a troubled young man who has known of the discipline and bravery for soldier work, but will do anything to escape his troubled life at home.
This is not just a post-apocalyptic novel. This is a post-apocalyptic novel with feeling – that will twist you up as you see the bad things coming for the characters you don’t want hurt, and will let you sigh with relief when they struggle out of tight corners. We begin in a static that changes rather quickly, and the novel you thought you’d started turns out to be a totally different one. I can’t help but be vague to stop myself from spoiling any surprises.
But the ending is what really makes this book. It is as surprising as it is inevitable. But again, I won’t say much more.
I will admit that the prose style left my feeling slightly detached from the drama, but I still felt something. I’m just nitpicking now, to try and find a negative, but I am definitely emotional compromised by this book. It’s wonderful, and one of the best I’ve read in the post-apocalyptic genre, because it sneaks up on you and throws things at you that you never thought you’d see.
I do love Mike Carey. Highly recommended.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2015
I walked into a bookshop and asked for the best book the assistant had read in AGES - they handed me this. I had no idea what it was about, I didn't even know what genre it fell into, all I knew was the cover looked interesting and the assistant said it was good. It was GREAT. The story just captured me. I couldn't put it down because I needed to know what happened next. I am not going to spoiler and I don't know how to talk about the plot without spoilering.
It was just good. And I needed a book like this in my life, one that you care about. One where you care about the characters even whenyou dont like them. It's good. Worth a read even if this isnt your usual type of book.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This is mostly a zombie survival horror, but with a key twist regarding the central character. It's obvious almost immediately how she's different, so the question is how that is going to play out and why she's as she is. The story is generally fast-paced, with some periods more introspective as the scene is set from her view, but with many thinks happening that make for a dramatic change. There is a progression towards a finale that is not entirely unexpected, but some of the details may still surprise. It's more like many of the genre, where the answers unfold slowly so that by the time they a certain, they're not surprising.
It's the kind of book that you are likely to finish very quickly, and it's certainly up to keeping your interest through the book. The clues about things are spread throughout, so it remains coherent. Overall it's a good read for those who like apocalyptic, end of days or survival horror stories.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This dark, post-apocalyptic tale is a stunning thriller which kept me on edge all the way through. We start with the point of view of Melanie, a young girl kept in a stark and inhuman bunker with class mates and a selection of teachers. Slowly, we realise why. They are under military control and only one person who comes into contact with these children, the teacher, Miss Justineau, retains any vestige of humanity. Can we blame them? We don’t yet know what’s happening ‘out there’. A fungus has infected humanity and the scientists are desperate to find a cure. Do these children carry an immunity and if so, how can it best be turned into a cure?
I was absolutely gripped by this story and by what it tells us of human nature and its response to adversity. The little girl was a haunting figure and all the way through I wanted her to be safe. I cared about her and her survival. I also felt for her teacher, fighting against immense odds to look after her charge. Other characters pulled me or repelled me, but sometimes I changed my mind about them as their stories unfolded. The end was sublime. Horrific in some ways but ultimately hopeful. It’s a haunting story and I shall not forget it in a hurry. Highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2014
Not a usual genre for me, the Zombie horror. If it were, possibly I'd have given it five stars.
I found the first part of the book absolutely rivetting, the sort of book that made me think "I wish I had written that", but thought that the middle sagged a bit, though it still moved at a cracking pace. I think perhaps it was because though an excellent bit of "road movie" writing it did not have the tense originality of the first part.
The ending was also very good; a lot of thought had gone into making the reasons for the zombification credible, rooted in the real world.
The book is fast paced and well written. the main protagonists engage ones sympathies very well and develop as the story gallops on, not the usual two dimensional characters that I expected from the genre. there is a good supporting cast who are also quite complex in their motivations.
If you are a zombie fan, buy it. If not, at least consider it
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2015
From reading the blurb I was really interested in this book. However, the 'twist' that occurred early on in the novel didn't even feel like anything shocking and I was quite disappointed in the genre it was turning out to be. Don't get me wrong, I love this genre and I have watched the many movies and tv shows, but I started to get the feeling it would be the same story of survival, which bored me. It does have one original element to it, the children, but this I don't feel this makes 'The Girl With All The Gifts' "thrilling" or "compelling and intense" as the reviews on the back tell you.
From a third of the way through I was counting down the pages until the end, and not because I wanted to know what was going to happen but because I don't like to leave a book half read. That, and I did have some hope the book would give me something that was "haunting, heartbreaking" as vogue suggested. I didn't connect with any of the characters, including the main character, Melanie. In fact most of the characters angered me, most of all Dr Caldwell and Miss Justineau due to their ignorance. Due to being unable to sympathise for any of the characters the ending fell flat and I was just happy it was finished.
Unfortunately, this book has jumped on the post-apocalypse bandwagon trying to offer something new but has fallen short. I think the main problem, for me anyway, was the characters and had some of them been more likeable I think I would have enjoyed the story much more.
Bottom line, I would not recommend this book unless you really like the post-apocalyptic genre.
on 4 September 2015
While the viewpoint of the story is mainly told from Melanie’s point of view, there are four other main characters. Miss Justineau is perhaps the most relatable character. She is a teacher and empathises with Melanie. Miss Justineau slowly becomes horrified at the treatment of the children, especially Melanie – it could be argued that she is the more humane of the group.
Yet it is the soldiers who hold my attention with their military discipline. Sgt Parks is the more senior, and this shows through his actions and reactions. Pte Gallagher is the youngest of the adults, dreaming of home. Both these men are abound in honour and bravery and it is them that constantly push the group forward.
Caroline Cadwell is also an interesting character. I could not be certain if she is the villain, depicted as a mad scientist who is only fuelled on by her need to complete her research and her personal ambition of saving mankind. She is definitely an antagonist, there are moments where she moves the plot forward with her eccentric behaviour and obsession with Melanie.
Melanie is perhaps a more complex character. On the exterior she appears to be weak and fragile but lurking under this is something that is waiting to be unleashed. Which side of her will win.
The setting of the book is mysterious. We only know what is going on within the vicinity of the main characters. We have no idea what chaos the rest of the world is in. The main theme of this story is the existence of the main characters and how they will survive. This is a compact exploration of human life and what you would do to survive. Would you be like Miss Justineau who just tries to help? Or would you be like Caroline Cadwell and be ruthless in your determination to figure out the secrets in saving humanity?
Each of the five characters go on a journey and become changed upon realising how their story is going to end. This is a gripping read, filled with twists and turns along the way.