The Girl With All The Gifts, Mike Carey

9780316278157Even though stories about zombies (along with their blood-sucking supernatural counterparts) have seemingly been told to death (har har), Carey has created a unique and thrilling story in his newest novel.

Unlike most stories in the genre, Carey doesn’t focus on either the outbreak or the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. Instead, it’s set years and years after the fall of civilisation. The last remaining humans are desperately trying to hold on to the last hope they have of finding any sort of cure: a classroom of unusual undead children, and a second-rate scientist.

The main character is a sweet and endearing little girl called Melanie. She loves books, enjoys school, and has a favourite teacher called Miss Justineau. She’s also a tiny little flesh hungry zombie, who gets locked up in a cell alongside her classmates once school’s over. But that won’t stop you from loving her.

Every now and then one of Melanie’s friends gets taken away, and never returns. She doesn’t know what happens to them. And then there’s also Sergeant Parks and Doctor Caroline Caldwell to contend with. Dealing with them varies from awkward to life-threatening. When the secret underground base where Melanie and her classmates are held comes under attack, Parks, Caldwell, and Justineau are forced to venture out beyond the gate into the very scary, very real, post-apocalyptic world – with Melanie in tow.

Carey is a smart and adept storyteller. His extensive experience in comic books lends a gritty texture to the narrative. The strong characters, worldbuilding, and both Melanie and Miss Justineau’s emotional journey culminate in a surprising and compelling trifecta that explores what the world is like as a broken and hopeless place. He delves into the implications of inadequately preparing our youth for the real world, and yet the burden of responsibility we place on them for the future of it.

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