Title: The Girl With All the Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Published: June 19, 2014
Series: The Girl With All the Gifts #1
Genre: Dystopian/Science Fiction
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.
It’s only been two years since I initially borrowed this from a friend, but I finally finished it. And don’t kid yourself, the delay wasn’t because the book sucked because it was GREAT.
I’ll be honest, zombie fiction can bore me sometimes. It’s a problem that plagues the dystopian and post-apocalyptic genres in general, but zombie stories in particular are often highly derivative and lacking in originality.
Not so with The Girl With All the Gifts.
M.R. Carey gives us a totally new spin on the zombie apocalypse with Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, a fungus that essentially hijacks the human brain and turns its host into a mindless, flesh-eating “hungry.”
Sound implausible? It’s actually based on science!
Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is REAL. (Cue panic). But don’t worry… yet.
Fungi of the genus Ophiocordyceps can’t just take over any old host. In fact, the fungus requires ants to complete its life cycle, according to Live Science. When an ant comes across Ophiocordyceps spores while foraging, the fungus infects the ant and spreads throughout its body.
Fungal cells in the ant’s head release chemicals that hijack the insect’s central nervous system. The fungus forces the ant to climb up vegetation and clamp down onto a leaf or twig before killing its hapless drone. It then grows a spore-releasing stalk out of the back of the victim’s head to infect more ants on the ground below.
-Joseph Castro, Live Science
Sounds pretty dramatic, huh?
In The Girl With All the Gifts, the fungal species has adapted to infect humans, essentially triggering the zombie apocalypse. But there’s still some hope for humanity.
First of all, not all humans have been infected, and some of the uninfected are still working on a cure.
Second, some of the hungries are different. Most hungries are just a shell of their former selves, essentially dead since the fungus has destroyed most of their natural brain function.
But a group of scientists and soldiers in England have managed to trap several test subjects who have average or above average brain function. They present as normal children… so long as they don’t smell human pheremones.
This book tells the tale of Melanie, test subject No. 1. She shows the most intellectual promise out of all of the “students” at the base, and she especially loves learning from Miss Justineau.
But what happens when humans start to forget what she is?
Well, you’ll just have to read it to find out, because I HIGHLY recommend this book. To be honest, I can’t really think of a reason to knock a single star off. It holds up from start to finish, and there are pretty much no issues with pacing. There seems to be a sequel/companion novel called The Boy on the Bridge, which I also plan to read this year.