by M.R. Carey
I’M AT A complete loss for words. Phenomenal just doesn’t adequately describe The Girl with All the Gifts. It's quite literally the most unforgettable and heartfelt story I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Even though I’ve rated it 4 out of 5, I would still recommend this as a must read. The ending is profound. Profound!
When Hotel Echo, a military research facility outside of London, was infiltrated by “junkers,” only five escaped…
Eddie Parks, a veteran soldier with a brassy side;
Kieran Gallagher, an upstanding (nearly) child soldier;
Helen Justineau, a child psychologist with a sin to repent;
Caroline Caldwell, a ruthless scientist who will stop at nothing to succeed;
And Melanie, the girl with all the gifts.
Tension runs high as these five individuals set out to the nearest safety location in Beacon, some 50 miles away. To get there, they must traverse by foot through cities infested with hungries – zombie-like creatures. They will have to learn to trust each other and work together if they want a chance at surviving both the junkers and the hungries.
Their journey would have been quite exciting, with promises of danger and more tragic deaths, had their actions been more realistic (to me). On more than one occasion, I could not understand why the characters invited danger upon themselves. Selfishness didn’t quite justify it; and complacency seemed unfair to describe this group of bright people. The group’s near-death encounters with the hungries felt unrealistic and forced for the sake of heighten danger.
Despite that, I thought Mr. Carey wrote intriguing and complex characters that captures the very essence of being a human – flaws, hopes, possibilities. The story is told through five POVs. The transitions were seamless and offered a much deeper insight into their thoughts. I liked Parks’ brassy, hard edge; Kieran’s tender, youthful innocence; Helen’s compassion and humanity; and I even like Caldwell, yes Caldwell. She is ruthless, pride-driven, and unapologetically heartless. She’s pure evil-icious.
My favorite POV to read is, of course, Melanie’s. She is a child wise way beyond her years. She possesses an old soul that processes tense situations in a calm and matter-of-fact manner. Her vulnerability makes me want to protect her; her desire to be loved and accepted makes me want to weep that she isn’t. I’m glad to see the growth of her character through Helen’s bond. I liked how Mr. Carey explored the old adage of nature versus nurture. Would Melanie be where she is without Helen? It’s hard to say, but I don’t think so. Their bond was beautiful, and the key to unlocking a new future.
The story would have been even more amazing if I were fascinated with the science. I think this is largely due to my limited understanding. On numerous occasions in the story, Mr. Carey tends to elaborate on the bone-dry technical details of how the fungus known as Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infects humans. But like a master storyteller, he gives us these bits of botany lessons, which may seem excessive or even unnecessary, until he pulls it all together at the end.
I was blown away by how the story wrapped up. It was phenomenal; it was thought provoking! The world was recreated beautifully, even if differently. The ending was…perfection.
LET'S HAVE A CHAT: At world's end, what would be your last act? Why?
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