Review of The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

I had no idea what to expect from this book. I knew nothing about it other than that it was getting quite a lot of buzz, and I only decided to read it because it was the GR SciFi and Fantasy Book Club SciFi choice for this month. Wow, was I surprised - not only because I loved it, but because it is incredibly strange, in a variety of (good) ways. I had no idea it was a zombie apocalypse novel, none, and it's probably a good thing because I may have skipped it. Very glad I didn't.

The first thing I noticed was the POV and tone of the narrative. There's a weird but not unsettling (okay maybe a little) past/present voice, which I found absolutely delightful once I got my feet, which didn't take very long. There's a lyrical naivete to the voice in the prose, as if told by an insatiably curious, intelligent and wise child - and that makes sense considering the main character is just that - but it continues as we shift perspectives to the other characters, who are adults - and it still works! There's a calming, light sense that prevails throughout, even during scenarios of horrendous violence and terror. Like I said, weird...

And I realized as I continued - this is a fairy tale. Cinderella meets World War Z. And Mad Max. And Lord of the Flies. It may be more of a Grimm fairy tale, but a fairy tale nonetheless. There are the bound girl, a fairy godmother, a wicked witch, even a protecting knight. A gruff, no-nonsense, honorable knight. Now, like all of the characters, these and the story are in a contemporary/future setting, but he's a knight in every sense of the tales of King Arthur and his knights of the round table.

Going back to the narrative style, I think the most striking aspect of the story is the tone. It's unique, I believe, but as I read I couldn't help thinking about Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and even Jonathan Livingston Seagull - though I'm not really sure why. There are also two other young readers books that came to mind, ones I read when I was very young in the early '70s - and the strangest thing is I hadn't thought about either one of them in decades. I don't know the titles, except I'm sure one had Enoch in the title, and the other had a scary demonic kitten. Maybe they were the same book, but I haven't had any luck locating the title(s).

Anyhow, read The Girl With All The Gifts. Seriously. Or you just suck. ;)

All the best,