The Girl With All The Gifts is the story of Melanie, about 10 years old and clearly very bright indeed. She also happens to be a zombie, something we learn very early on in the story though Melanie herself doesn’t come to realise this for quite some time. She attends school on an army base with a number of other children just like her in that although they have the drive to eat human flesh like the other “hungries” who have apparently overrun the world, they are also high functioning, intelligent, able to learn and therefore of great interest to the authorities. For the reason they are being held on this base is to be tested (by being taught like normal children would) and experimented on (in rather unpleasant ways) to find out exactly why they are so different and whether this could lead to a cure.
And then it all goes a bit wrong….
Why did I want to read this?
I think I’ve said before that I tend to be more of a vampire than zombie girl but I’ve had the good fortune to read a couple of very good zombie stories over the past few years, and this one came highly recommended. The idea of intelligent zombies who can (at least in Melanie’s case) come to understand what they are and up to a point exercise some level of self-control sounded fascinating, and I really wanted to give this a go to see if it lived up to expectations.
What did I think of it?
Oh, I had all the feelings about this book!
This is an absolutely brilliant novel and I read it in a couple of sittings, desperate to find out what would happen to Melanie. The great strength of the novel is the characterisation, and not just that of Melanie whose side I was definitely on all the way through but the adults that surround her especially once things move outside the base itself. The most sympathetic is Miss Justineau, Melanie’s favourite teacher who has come to think of her as a “normal” child and has introduced her to the Greek myths including the story of Pandora (who was the original “girl with all the gifts”) and believes that her life is worth preserving despite the risks.
But we also have Sgt Parks who over time comes to respect Melanie (in his own way), Pte Gallagher who has known nothing other than a world full of zombies, and Dr Caldwell, the female scientist so obsessed with understanding how the infection that caused zombies spread that she is unable (or refuses) to see the children as people and treats them with appalling cold-bloodedness.
I’m not going to say anything else about the plot because it needs to be experienced first hand though I would agree with other reviews that there isn’t a huge amount that is new here, but I came to feel so strongly about Melanie that none of that mattered. I could see where it might end up and was mostly right but that’s not really the point, and I found the end of the story very satisfying.
I was really pleased that this turned out to be such a good read given that I persuaded Silvery Dude to buy a copy to take on holiday with him. I think he’s finished it but he hasn’t told me what he thinks of it – I’m assuming positive response as we had an exchange of e-mails casting the movie version.
I loved this and can’t recommend it highly enough.