23 August 2016

The Girl with all the Gifts

The Girl with all the Gifts
MR Carey
Orbit, 2016 (film tie-in edition)
PB, 461
Source: Paperback copy kindly supplied by the publisher, original ARC from Amazon Vine (2014).

In celebration of this book being released as a film, it's been reissued in paperback in a pretty nice new design - something that you don't often get with film tie-ins, in my opinion! It also has some nice extras - an interview with the author, some book group questions and previews of his next book Fellside and of Resistance is Futile by Jenny Colgan.

I'm therefore dusting off a review I did of Girl for Amazon Vine back in 2014: I blogged less, and never posted the review here.

I haven't made any changes, I think the review speaks for itself.

I hope and believe that this book will be a big success - I found it a gripping read, hard to put down and genuinely engaging.  It is though difficult to review without giving too much away, as as the effect depends on careful pacing and the gradual revelation of what is going on.

We are first introduced to Melanie, the Girl of the title, who may be about 10 years old.  She goes off to lessons every day - but the journey is from her underground cell, along a short corridor, to her classroom.  She travels strapped into a wheelchair, pushed by "Sergeant", unable to move her arms or legs. And once she arrives, her chair is placed so that neither she, nor her classmates, can communicate. The adults around her seem to either fear her, or hate her, or both. Apart from Miss Justineau, her favourite teacher.

Melanie's day to day treatment isn't by any means the cruellest thing that happens to the kids.  We slowly discover that something has gone very wrong with the world.  ("The population of Birmingham is zero!")  Outside the fence around the site where Melanie lives, threats loom - Hungries and Junkers - and paradoxically it's only Sergeant and his men who keep them at bay.  The site exists to find an answer, and Melanie may be the key.

Eventually, the fragile normality Melanie has known is threatened, and she and a small group of companions - including arch-torturer Dr Caldwell - have to band together to survive.

Though all this, Melanie grows and learns. Can she find a way not only to save herself, but the human race?  And if she succeeds, what will the cost be?  Dr Caldwell believes that the pain and suffering she inflicts is justified, given the potential prize.  Can that be right?  What does survival mean - it it more than finding a way to beat off or destroy the Hungries?

This is an action-filled story throughout, with Hungries and Junkers to be fought off, but it's also a story of discovery, at the heart of which is the developing relationship between Melanie and her teacher, Miss Justineau.  I found that sad and beautiful, as what Melanie discovers about herself, her origin and her life affects Justineau - even as the latter risks everything to protect the girl from the threats that surround her.

The book is well written and compelling. The closest comparisons I can think of are some of John Wyndham's post apocalyptic stories such as The Kraken Wakes, The Day of the Triffids or perhaps closest, The Chrysalids, where similar dilemmas are explored - but it is better than any of them, not least in the degree to which the characters become real.

Definitely one to look for in 2014. [And wasn't I right?]

Image from http://www.orbitbooks.net/

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