The Girl With All the Gifts, M. R. Carey

Took a risk in a London thrift shop and boy, did it pay off – a better-than-most dystopian future thriller, and far better than the usual zombie fare.  To be fair, Carey does not use the Z word, he call his creations ‘hungries’, but they are undead cannibals, so what’s to quibble about?  The real difference is that this author cares about the world they infect, cares about the future of humanity and his characters, and uses his premise to explore those, rather than the other way around.

Melanie (the Pandora of the title) is tough and smart enough to carry a story, as is miss Justineau, her teacher, and much of the novel is a two-character play as they get to know one another and the new world in which they find themselves, after a plague of sorts has killed much of the local population, turned others into hungries and done who -knows-what to the incommunicado rest of the planet. Sargeant Parks and Private Gallagher are effective foils, the former more believable than the latter, but both fleshy enough to care about, especially when the Private’s flesh is sacrificed lamb to the story line.  That’s about it for characters, as the hungries and the few Junkers who survive out among them remain quite as anonymous as they are disposable.

From the author’s notes, it seems this tale grew of small beginnings, but as it ended up, the main points is a large one; a cautionary note about the hubris of assuming our world will stay manageably close to what we know and love, and that any species, once ascendant to the top of the food chain, will necessarily stay there.  An easy and exciting read, well worth the time and afterthought.

I love thrift stores!

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