Book Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel was bought as holiday slush, a get-away-from-real-work kind of a book. Yet another semi-tired old post-apocalyptic flesh-eating zombie story which combined ‘I am Legend’ with ’28 Weeks Later’.

While I can’t pretend the novel is a literary masterpiece or that Carey has completely blown the whole virus-attack zombie scenario out of the water, nevertheless, the book is surprisingly good and has enough originality to be gripping to the end.

I am slightly irked by the use of present tense throughout the novel. This seems to be in vogue currently and I don’t approve frankly. There’s nothing left for when you want that sense of immediacy, urgency or exciting thrill. In this book that’s essential but you get so used to the present tense that it actually kills the climax moments just a little.

There were obvious clues about the general direction the plot was going. Melanie, the super intelligent ‘hungry’ to whom the book title refers, is central throughout and something shocking is obviously coming. Her loving teacher ‘Miss’ Justineau is a little two-dimensional but I like how she was handled as a character. The fierce Sergeant Parks is possibly the most well-thought out and, ultimately, complex character but a scene early on in the book makes it clear how things will end. And then there is the cold-hearted but dedicated scientist Caldwell whose desire to find a cure is matched only by her ruthlessness. Again, by the middle of the novel at least, it’s clear where things will go.

But this is only in general. The specifics were harder to see and I for one didn’t see several scenes coming. That made the book most enjoyable. There’s something comfortable about having a pretty good idea of the direction but still finding every turn on the corner a surprise. It’s little wonder it took very little time to complete all 460 pages.

There was enough character development to permit a key effect that I feel is needed for a successful book: I liked the characters and cared about (some of) them. Indeed, I would quite like to see the film version now. There is also enough philosophical thought (largely about what it means to be human, as per ‘I am Legend’) to be stimulating.

All in all, this was an entertaining and worthwhile read. Nothing ground-shaking, but good enough.

View all my reviews

Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them!

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

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