I am obsessed with zombies.
I think it dates back to when I watched Dawn of the Dead as a girl. In the remake the zombies run really fast. That freaked me out so much I’ve spent much of my life planning my escape from the zombie apocalypse!
Naturally I am drawn to zombie literature and film. I don’t really like zombie horror movies except 28 days later. I love Zombieland (so many good tips!) and Shawn of the Dead. One of my all-time favourite books is World War Z by Max Brooks. (Please note the Brad Pitt film is a completely different thing!).
So I was eager to try out The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey.
This offers a different perspective on the zombie theory. In this book the zombies, or hungries as they are called, are the result of a fungal infection. To anyone familiar with David Attenborough this fungus already exists today in ants. It infects the ants and controls their bodies. Then it kills them, sprouts out of their heads and germinates.
So in the book the fungus has jumped to humans and it results in zombie like creatures as the virus kills the person but keeps their bodies alive. In its immature state it can only reproduce in salvia and blood so it uses the bite of an infected person to pass along the fungus.
We start the story with Melanie. She is a girl of approximately 10 years old and she lives in a cell. Every day she goes to lessons in the classroom strapped into a wheel chair apart from Saturday and Sunday. Her favourite teacher is Miss Justineau. She loves Miss Justineau.
Sometimes children from the classroom disappear and they don’t come back. One day it’s Melanie’s turn. Because Melanie is in a secure lab where the last remnant of mankind are trying to understand the fungus and create a cure.
The children are different. Infected by the virus but still retaining a human like element. They can talk, think, feel.
Unfortunately, just as the main researcher Dr Caldwell reaches an understanding of the fungus the base is attacked by hungries. Melanie saves Miss Justineau and together with Dr Caldwell and Sargent Parks, who was responsible for the base, they escape into the countryside.
Outside the research facility Melanie starts to piece together what she is and the consequences of that.
Dr Caldwell realises that the children may not be infected humans, but born of the hungries. Born infected. A new race of humans.
As they travel to the last human settlement, Beacon, in London they discover a massive wall of fungus. This wall is full of pods. The pods are the way of the fungus spreading, but they can only be triggered by an environment factor. Such as fire.
Melanie discovers other children like her in the city. Making a decision she confronts Dr Caldwell who reveals everything to her as she lies dying form blood poisoning.
Melanie burns the pods to release the spores, but she saves Miss Justineau. Miss Justineau who she loves.
This book was a very different take on the whole zombie genre. The idea of using a fungus already in existence as the basis for the infection is certainly a little scary!
The characters were well written and developed. Melanie was a beautifully complex character navigating her way through this new world. Coming to understand her place within it.
The book felt really believable and for me that’s the sign of a good zombie book.
It hasn’t knocked World War Z from first place but this is definitely in my top zombie books!
I will definitely be checking out the film adaption of this very soon!
Have you read the Girl with All the Gifts? Let me know what you think below!
Get it here: The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey