‘You can’t save people from the world. There’s nowhere else to take them…’
I am not afraid to say that I am a sucker for dystopia. I love The Hunger Games franchise, I love classic dystopian novels 1984 and Brave New World and most of all I love zombie films. One of my happiest memories is of watching a
brilliant terrible zombie film called Zombie Nosh on my 13th birthday. I urge anyone with a love for kitsch cinema and crap zombies to dig it out. With that in mind, it is fair to say that I am the target audience for M. R. Carey’s novel The Girl With All The Gifts. The former DC and Marvel employee Mike Carey was unknown to me before reading this book but I will be dipping into his work liberally like a slutty digestive biscuit into a cup of Yorkshire Tea in the coming months.
The Girl With All The Gifts takes place in a dystopian future in which… actually the less you know about the story the better so I urge anyone who hasn’t already read the book to skip to the next paragraph. The novel is set in a not too distant future in which people have been infected by a mysterious virus. While that synopsis might have the more discerning reader rolling their eyes, Carey’s 7th novel actually feels remarkably fresh. This is partly because the characters are so lovingly realised but also because the world they inhabit feels nuanced and lived in.
The touchstones for the plot are obvious with the most prominent being 28 Days Later but whilst The Girl With All The Gifts wears its influences on its sleeve, it never feels overly indebted to any one genre or trope. The fact that it is difficult to definitively push Carey’s novel into a particular genre is a testament to how original a work it is.
The novels main strength actually lies away from the setting and plot and settles majestically on the characters. The relationship between captive Melanie and her teacher Miss Justineau is as compelling as any in this genre and this pushes the book through the more pedestrian moments (of which there are very few indeed).
I haven’t seen the film so I can’t compare the two but my advice would be the same that was given to me. Avoid the film, the trailer, and anything else that might reveal too much of the plot and just read the book. Immediately. I was resolute and confident in my prediction that the MaddAddam trilogy would be the best thing I have read this year. The Girl With All The Gifts is a definite contender to that crown.