The Girl With All the Gifts

Out next week in the US is a dystopian science fiction novel by M.R. Carey (who is better known to comic readers as Mike, author of Lucifer, Hellblazer, The Unwritten, and X-Men). It’s set after the human race has almost been destroyed by a plague that takes over the nervous system, turning people into cannibalistic “hungries” that exist only to infect others. (So, zombie apocalypse, kind of, as is so popular now.)

Ten-year-old Melanie is being held at a military base with a contingent of scientists. She’s special, so much so that she’s kept in a windowless cell and bound to a wheelchair to attend class. One of her teachers, Miss Justineau, is the only one who treats her and those like her as children, but is what they’re learning relevant to the future they face?

I found the story involving enough to finish the book, the more so because I didn’t know what was coming next, so I won’t say much more about the plot. I did find the end a bit disappointing, but that’s a reflection of what I look for in science fiction; I prefer more hopeful alternatives. The main characters — a couple of soldiers, a bloodthirsty scientist, the teacher — aren’t truly fleshed out, but that’s not necessary for a thriller. Their motives are clear and we’re given enough to understand their role in the struggle for survival. The Girl With All the Gifts has plenty of horror elements and a pervasive air of sadness, as though everyone knows there’s no good way out from the premise. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

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