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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Opening Pandora's box
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...
Published 12 months ago by Laura T

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A post-apocalyptic-zombie-survivalist-with-a-twist sort of book
Hmmm, had I known this was a post-apocalyptic-zombie-survivalist sort of book, I'd have thought twice about offering to review it. Not really my thing, and once I'd started reading and the pennies were slowly dropping, I put it aside for a few days, but, if you review for Vine, you review what you pick, so I somewhat reluctantly went back to it, only to find that about a...
Published 12 months ago by DebB


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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Opening Pandora's box, 12 Dec 2013
By 
Laura T (Bradford-on-Avon, UK) - See all my reviews
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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.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Girl With All The Gifts, 31 Mar 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
In the mornings, five mornings a week, Melanie waits quietly in her cell for Sergeant Parks and his team to collect her and take her to class. She hopes it will be a Miss Justineau day, because Melanie loves the days when Miss Justineau takes the class. In particular, she loves the stories that Miss Justineau tells; tales of Aeneas, of Pandora, of places and people Melanie feels she knows and understands, out there in the world Melanie has never seen. Because Melanie and all her classmates are special and so they must be treated as such.

Quite what’s happening in this book takes a little while to unfold before the reader; seeing things initially from Melanie’s perspective, things sit a little off centre from what we might consider ‘reality’, until the reader starts to understand why. When Melanie tells Sergeant Parks that she won’t bite, he doesn’t find it funny. And when you find out why, that’s only the beginning of the shocks that wait for the unsuspecting reader in this book. Is the fate of humanity hanging in the balance? And what can Melanie do about it?

This is not a book for the faint-hearted; it’s emotional, and it’s bloody, and everybody in this game is playing for keeps. But if you like a gritty dystopian viewpoint from which to view our possible future, this is a book that will have you pinned to the pages. This is a fantastic book; breathless pacing takes the reader through a narrative that’s clever, ‘real’, and just close enough to the bone to leave you faintly worried as you close the last page. Brilliant.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another world disaster – but what a story!, 27 Mar 2014
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I gave up reading science-fiction long ago, finding its latter-day manifestations pretentious, longwinded, ill-written or downright incomprehensible. "The Girl with All the Gifts" (ordered on the strength of an Amazon recommendation and the intriguing title) turns out to be one of the best science-fiction yarns I’ve ever read. I won’t fall into the blurb-writer’s and amateur reviewer’s error of outlining the plot, and I advise you to avert your eyes quickly from any review that seems about to do so. The book’s startling extrapolation from real scientific fact deserves to have its impact.
The author is evidently not only a scientist but a born novelist. His technique of hooking the reader instantly but only gradually revealing the full horror of the situation (and its explanation) is brilliantly executed. The writing style is deceptively easy and light, and wastes no words. The story is perfectly paced, each successive incident more gripping. There are a couple of places where the logic is a bit thin, but the story sweeps you on. At 90% on the Kindle’s indicator of how much you have read, you wonder how it can finish so soon. But it lets itself down on the very last page with a perfunctory, wishful “happy ending”, quite out of kilter with the gritty “reality” depicted up to that moment.
Nevertheless I’d give this book six stars if I could, for sheer inventiveness, good scientific background, good characterisation and very good writing.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A post-apocalyptic-zombie-survivalist-with-a-twist sort of book, 17 Dec 2013
By 
DebB (Oxfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
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Hmmm, had I known this was a post-apocalyptic-zombie-survivalist sort of book, I'd have thought twice about offering to review it. Not really my thing, and once I'd started reading and the pennies were slowly dropping, I put it aside for a few days, but, if you review for Vine, you review what you pick, so I somewhat reluctantly went back to it, only to find that about a third of the way through the pace shifts, the story changes, and I was off, caught up and hauled through to the the end.

This is a big book at 403 pages. There are lots of chapters, some less than a page long, and the story follows a single narrative arc, written in the third person, mostly from Melanie's point of view, but not solely.

The principal characters are all well drawn, altho' the fixated, science-trumps-everything doctor was a tad stereotypical. Melanie is a strong lead, and even as you begin to realise what her "gift" might be, you're still rooting for her. There are challenges throughout the book to what is humanity - and the relationships between Melanie and Justineau, and Melanie and Parks, are part of what make this book more interesting.

The end isn't quite what I expected, and seems to resolve pretty quickly for a book that's up 'til then taken its time. It doesn't, I think, bear too much deep thought - even as I read the last page my mind was offering quite a few "Well, yes, but how..." questions.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding, 2 May 2014
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This is a great book. Once I started I couldn't stop. A real page turner or whatever the kindle equivalent is!
I had not heard of the author before but will be seeking out his other work. The plot is plausible, the characters complex and well rounded. As I read the story I constantly thought that it would make a great film, some of the scenes just like leapt off the page into my imagination.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ***, 12 Jun 2014
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I enjoyed this book, but I'm left feeling slightly empty. Like there was no proper resolution. Though I suppose that's the point. And I had literally no emotional attachment to any of the characters, which was a shame as I think that would have massively changed my perspective.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising and wonderful - a novel that defies genre boundaries, 26 Oct 2014
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Sometimes, a book being a total surprise is a sheer joy; that’s the case with The Girl With All The Gifts. The blurb gives away very little, and I basically bought it on the beauty of the title and the cover (I know, I know – but sometimes judging a book by its cover does pay off). I’d not read much, if anything, about the book before buying it either. The first few chapters, as things gradually fall into place, are a wonder I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of so this may be a short review as I avoid any hint of spoilers.

Melanie, the protagonist and main narrator, is totally loveable. She’s a young girl who is clearly extremely special; curious, smart and ambitious, she idolises her teacher (Miss Justineau) and has inherited a love of Greek mythology from this teacher. But Melanie is also taken to her lessons strapped into a wheelchair by armed guards who are clearly afraid of her. That’s about all I can say, plot-wise – but isn’t that enough to pique a little interest?

So beautifully drawn is Melanie, and so perfectly-pitched is her voice, that she could probably carry this novel on her own. But M.R. Carey has created an admirable cast of characters: Justineau, Parks, Caldwell and Gallagher are all distinct and defined, evolving and believable, understandable if not sympathetic, and flawed. As we get to know them, and they each other, they emerge from somewhat stereotypical moulds and become very real, complex people. Their interactions with and influence on one another are thoughtful and plausible, and make this fundamentally a novel about human relationships and psychology – albeit couched in an incredibly strong story.

And that story is beautiful: for me, it transcends genre because of the attention to detail, the care taken to explain not just what but why. This is important for me in books that imagine future or alternative societies, and is one of the things (along with characterisation) that set the very best, more engaging books apart from those that are simply good stories. The Girl With All The Gifts defies boundaries and is a study of people, society and science as much as it is a ‘thriller’ or science fiction. (It could easily be described as part of a number of other genres, but again I’m trying to avoid spoilers!)

If you do know more about this book and it’s not your usual thing, give it a go anyway. Don’t be put off by some of the keywords that probably evoke strong reactions; I promise it will challenge your pre-conceptions. And if you don’t know more about it, stay in the dark as long as possible and read it while you can still experience the joy I mentioned earlier of uncovering something that’s not at all what you expected and that you might not have picked up otherwise.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but needed more charcter development, 17 Sep 2014
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I read this whole book in one sitting: I was up till the small hours and felt awful when I had to get up the following morning. I could not put it down. Very much like Dr. Moreau I thought, but with more action and less making sense (hence not 5 stars). The typical "evil scientist" character (who was doing evil things in the hope of finding "the cure" and saving mankind) never displayed any sort of internal turmoil over what she was doing, or even understood why the others hated her. There was no "this is horrible but I'm doing it for good reasons", most people would choose to kill one person to save five, but who wouldn't recognise that the person to be killed would have good reason to be upset about it, even if they didn't object? She is portrayed as being ruthlessly logical and scientific (hence the "kill one to save five") she says a lot of things that don't sit well with this (***SPOILER*** why does she keep repeating "well technically they're not alive, brain function typically stops within minutes of infection" when Melanie obviously does have brain function? That's like looking at a tiger and maintaining that it has spots - it's not science.).

The rest of the book was brilliant, but Dr. Caldwell (the evil scientist) just didn't make sense. Every time she speaks you realise it's just a story and you're no longer absorbed into the book. Also the scientific "breakthrough" she's chasing throughout the book and finally makes at the very end, is a bit of a bore actually - a little too obvious.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very moreish., 15 Sep 2014
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This might be a vague review, but it's very hard to review this book without giving anything away!

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but the very brief introduction on the back had me intrigued. Melanie is taken into class in the morning, tied to a wheelchair by soldiers. "She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh". Was she a vampire? Is she a dangerous criminal? Or was her joke just that; a joke? She's obviously a child, and one who's trying to create a sense of normality, but there's something sinister about the whole set up. I bought the book straight away.

Set in futuristic dystopian England, the novel tells to story of Melanie, her teacher Miss Justineau, Sgt Parks, Private Gallagher and Dr Caldwell. It becomes apparent fairly early on what the theme of the novel will be but the angle is different to normal books in this genre. I liked Melanie from the beginning. She's only a child, unaware of what's going on and why she's treated the way she is. Her mundane life is broken up by only her weekly shower, dinner with her classmates and her lessons with her beloved Miss Justineau. Justineau becomes the centre of Melanie's life. She idolises her teacher, thrives on her stories and laps up the affection that Justineau shows her. It makes Melanie a sympathetic character, just a little girl desperate to be loved with the only mother figure she has.

The other characters (Parks,Gallagher and Caldwell) serve a good purpose and also added to the sense of humanity in the situation the group find themselves in. I'd like to have heard more about Parks' background as he's one of those characters I initially disliked but he gives the underlying impression there's more to him than we're told. Unfortunately, we're never actually told that much about him, but his character development was interesting and with a nice twist towards the end of the novel.

Great little story, thoroughly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very disturbing dystopian novel, 19 Aug 2014
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
All the best dystopian novels are frightening because their premises are plausible and carefully thought out, and that's certainly the case here. I won't spoil it by explaining, but it's a good idea for a post-apocalyptic scenario. This is a very disturbing, unsettling novel about a young girl who lives in an army-run institute in a Britain that has experienced destruction at the hands of zombie-like creatures. Although the principal character is a child, it's most definitely not a children's book.

It's not a story that pulls any punches and therefore isn't for the faint hearted. It is gory in parts and emotionally distressing in others. I found it highly compelling and difficult to put down. Whilst I found it an uncomfortable read, there's no way I could have stopped myself from reading to the end. A sort of horrified fascination kept me glued to the pages. The four star rating reflects that I found it so disturbing I couldn't wholly enjoy it, which I don't personally like in a book. But it is testament to how well written it is that it stirred up such strong feelings.

There is a fairly small cast of characters, and there's a lot we don't really learn about them. The adult characters tend to fit into standard roles for the genre, and aren't as well filled out as they could have been. Melanie, the girl at the centre of it all, is perhaps a bit too grown-up and capable to be believable, given that she's supposed to be about 10 and has led a sheltered existence. As with many post-apocalyptic novels, the limited range of knowledge of the characters due to their geographical isolation means that some of the events don't ever make total sense to the reader.

Fans of horror and darker science fiction and fantasy will definitely want to read this. People who like thrillers and plot-driven stories will also find it worthwhile. If you get easily distressed by powerfully written books about darker subjects or prefer to avoid vivid descriptions of unpleasant things, this isn't the right book for you.
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