The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey.jpg

There are loads of zombie stories out there. From Night of the Living Dead to The Walking Dead and World War Z, these happy-go-lucky tales of dismembered limbs and flesh-eating monsters have enthralled and disgusted us for decades. They can be grim. They can be fun.  They can even be a little bit same-same. Brains, blood and guts. Hoards of the undead. A rag-tag bunch of survivors with (more often than not) questionable decision-making skills.

First published in 2014, M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts offers something new. Sure, the usual ingredients are here. The apocalypse has come and gone, survivors are few and far between, the military’s doing its thing. This zombie-plague, however, was triggered by a fungus that now covers much of the British countryside, and the spores can be just as deadly as a bite from a zombified postman. Happy days. The coolest part? A new breed of zombie (or ‘hungry’ as they’re called here) is evolving. Melanie is an infected 10-year-old with a genius-level IQ and beautiful soul to match. She lives in a military outpost designed to study children like her. They live in cells. They’re wheeled around in Hannibal-Lecter-type restraints. They even go to school, taught by the lovely Helen Justineau, Melanie’s favourite. Justineau disagrees with the team of scientists who experiment on the children, butting heads with Dr Caldwell, who will stop at nothing to find a cure.

Of course, all hell breaks loose, and a desperate cross-country mission ensues, with Justineau, Caldwell, a bunch of military dudes and Melanie herself forming an uneasy alliance. There are thrills and spills, hungries and junkers, but the real joy here are the characters themselves, particularly Melanie and her unique take on this crazy world. What does it mean to be human? How far will she go to save Justineau? Their bond – zombie-child and surrogate mother – forms the heart of this story, making for an engaging, emotional, nail-biting read. Check it out before it hits the big screen…

- Jeremy