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78 of 83 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 13 months ago by Laura T

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Same as the last one.
An easy and enjoyable read. I find no fault whatsoever with the writing of this book. The author knows his/her audience (presumably "young adult") and the book was an easy read - quite gripping.

There were a few very basic mistakes - no scientist within the last fifty years has EVER dealt in feet and inches or pounds and ounces for instance - but...
Published 4 months ago by Angela


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78 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Opening Pandora's box, 12 Dec. 2013
By 
Laura T (Oxford, 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fresh approach to the zombie apocalypse theme, 21 Dec. 2013
By 
Book Addict - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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The plot grabbed me from the start; who or what exactly are 10 year old Melanie and her classmates, and what are the reasons behind such armed security measures around them and the heavy duty constraints they constantly wear? These kids aren't even allowed to walk anywhere, instead each is restrained in a wheelchair and muzzled before they are transferred from their cells to a different location.

Melanie is special amongst her classmates, with a genius level IQ, an insatiable curiosity and a massive crush on one particular teacher; Miss Helen Justineau. Yet she never questions when one of her classmates disappears never to return, afraid that she too may be taken away and never see her beloved Miss Justineau again.

The reader quickly discovers why you should be extremely cautious around Melanie and her friends. They are the survivors of a world changing event, yet when mankind teeters on the brink of extinction, where do you draw the line to ensure your continued survival? This author explores this theme as Dr Caroline Caldwell is introduced; her obsessive search for a key to humanity's survival has her acting as brutally and callously as those infected by a virus which leaves them zombie-like and hankering for human flesh.

The scientific explanations behind the zombie plague seem plausible, plus there is a fresh take (no pun intended) to the zombie theme. The stages of the zombie life cycle are somewhat grim, and although the Hungries (as the zombies are known as) prove to be mindlessly bloodthirsty, the greatest and most impactful acts of violence in this book are carried out by the uninfected. There is plenty of tension, drama and action as Melanie becomes instrumental in keeping a few uninfected humans alive. As they journey through a devastated London; encountering Hungries along the way, the likelihood of a healthy and happy future looks bleak.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Same as the last one., 15 Sept. 2014
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An easy and enjoyable read. I find no fault whatsoever with the writing of this book. The author knows his/her audience (presumably "young adult") and the book was an easy read - quite gripping.

There were a few very basic mistakes - no scientist within the last fifty years has EVER dealt in feet and inches or pounds and ounces for instance - but these were little faults which should have been picked up in editing. No, my problems lie with the story.

The first fifty pages give a brilliant start to what turns out to be yet another zombie novel. The build-up is excellent and enticing and if we'd found out that the children were aliens or insects, both would have been exciting and 'different', but finding out it was yet another book which was written in honour of zombie genre was very unsatisfying.

The movie would undoubtedly have degenerated into a series of shouts of "GET DOWN!", "LOOK OUT!" and "Everything's going to be all right". In other words, yet another the same as the rest.

I finished the book because it was well-written but the ultimate premise was flawed and the ending totally predictable after the first few chapters.

Such a shame - maybe the author can write something original next time?
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20 of 23 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, detailed, but a little predictable, 14 Dec. 2013
By 
David Burton "aenikata" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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.
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21 of 25 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cut above the rest, 1 Mar. 2014
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A beautifully written story with a clever twist on a well explored premise - what if you're fighting for survival in a world gone to pot? What sets it apart from the rest are the wonderfully conceived characters. Carey lets us into the minds of all of them, laying bare their feelings and motives, but it's done so deftly it doesn't get in the way of the plot and the constant sense of menace and threat that keeps you reading, desperate to find out what happens to them in the end. The 'girl' of the title is one of the best character treatments in a genre novel that I have ever read and through her eyes the reader sees the world anew.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent exploration of Zombie futures, 16 Mar. 2014
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I was recommended this by another author (so that's a good recommendation) and I'm not disappointed. At first it takes a bit of working out ... why are the children treated this way? - then it quickly begins to make all sorts of horrible sense.
Characters that grab you with their insights and obsessions; a plot which - though ultimately predictable - still makes room for intrigue; parallels with "normal" and unusual zombie lore (but enough new ideas to keep you guessing) ...
At the end, I knew there *was* a future for zombies ... and the future felt right.
Read this and hope.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what it seems..., 19 Dec. 2013
By 
Chantal Lyons "C.S. Lyons" (England) - See all my reviews
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In this horror-thriller, M. R. Carey (whose previous stuff I'm not familiar with) takes a popular, over-used trope and gives it a fresh biological twist. While this does mean that a good deal of the plot follows the well-trodden road of a band of survivors trying to get somewhere while avoiding grisly deaths, there's enough difference to keep things interesting.

For starters, the main character and first viewpoint we're introduced to is a ten-year-old girl, Melanie. While her nature is made clear to the reader fairly quickly, there's still a few pages of disquiet in which you're left wondering why a little girl needs locking up and restraining. Her thought processes and language feel credible, but not to the point that you feel you're reading a children's book. This is far from that.

Most of the other characters are similarly compelling, although I did sometimes struggle to differentiate between them as the style and wording of their viewpoints didn't seem particularly distinct from one another. Credit goes to the author for slowly turning a standard army guy into someone more individual and more likeable, and for making the character who serves as Melanie's 'defender' unexpectedly conflicted.

Carey's prose is snappy and engaging, if occasionally a bit over-wrought. I definitely wanted to come back for more when I had to put the book down, although towards the end my attention began to slip a little - I started to get bored with the standard survivalist trajectory. The ending itself took an unexpected path, although the reasoning for it felt rather murky. If a sequel follows I think I would pick it up.

This isn't a gentle supernatural tale, but I recommend it for fans of fast-paced horror-thrillers.
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