Book Review – The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey

Book Review – The Girl With all The Gifts by M.R Carey

If you are a regular reader (and thankyou ever so much for stopping by!) you’ll know that I recently  joined a post-apocalyptic book club. Well I went to the second meet-up this week and we discussed The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey. The overall consensus was that we really enjoyed the book, thinking that it started off extremely strong and whilst some of the plot developments might employ a few too many zombie-story tropes the characters, for us, redeemed it.

The novel starts by introducing us to Melanie, who just like any other little girl loves stories, enjoys going to school and dreams of growing up and becoming a beautiful princess. However Melanie is not like other children. Along with her classmates she is infected with  Ophiocordyceps unilateralis a parasitic fungus which turns its host into a zombie-like creature with a craving for human flesh. The rest of Britain has been virtually wiped out by the spread of this virus; however some infected by the fungus – all of them children – maintain their mental functions, existing in a state somewhere between the ‘hungries’ and the humans. The classroom Melanie is in is on an Army base where an array of teachers aim to see how much cognitive function the children retain.

Miss Justineau is the children’s favourite teacher. With them secured into wheelchairs and Miss Justineau covered up with an e-blocker that prevents her scent from reaching the children, she teaches them about Greek Mythology as well as countries and cities of a civilisation that once was. When the bases resident scientist, Caroline Candwell decides that the only way to discover the root of the fungal infection is to kill and dissect all of the children – Miss Justineau steps in to save Melanie. As she confront Caldwell the base is attacked by junkers (other survivors, who are not part of the Army) . They have driven vast herds of hungries into the base – destroying their defences as well as wiping out the majority of surviving humans. Melanie, Miss Justineau and Caldwell are unexpectedly thrown together and as they escape are joined by two military men. Because of what Melanie is – the two men want to kill/abandon her; however (albeit due to different motives) Miss justineau and Caldwell convince them to keep her with them. They reach a compromise and muzzle her – setting off on an attempt to reach a place where they believe there to be survivors – the Beacon.

What I really liked about this book was the character of Melanie; she develops so much throughout the story. Initially we meet an exceptionally bright young girl who has no memory of the world outside of the space she occupies – instead she gains her information from old textbooks and pieces together mythology to make sense of her world. When she realises what she is – a hungry – she soon begins to notice what separates them and her, and even manages to control her hunger. By the end of the novel we realise how important these hybrid children are to man’s continuation, and more specifically how important Melanie is – as she has learnt about the past and is thus able to inform the future.

As a book club we also enjoyed how well thought out the fungal parasite was – having all seen the articles about how a similar parasite exists within ants. The parasite explained why the hungries would congregate together – something which always I have always queried in zombie movies. Drawing ideas from nature, animals often congregate to reproduce and that is what this parasite motivates within the hungries, when mature they congregate in order that the fungi might grow together and thus release the spores needed to infect more victims.

Have any of you read this novel? Who was your favourite character? I have to admit that I had a soft spot for Caldwell – even though she was totally inhumane she was so so dedicated and determined to do what she believed was right that I couldn’t help but grudgingly like her.

Becqui

Advertisements

Book Review: Hater by David Moody

Book Review: Hater by David Moody

As those of you who follow me on Twitter will already know this week I went to my first ever book club. I was browsing this site – just really to see what was going on in Manchester really – but as soon as I saw “Post-apocalyptic book club” I was hooked. I absolutely loved the evening, discussing and debating literature with like-minded people is something I really enjoy – and of course, I came away from it with loads of book (and film) recommendations! The first book we discussed was Hater by David Moody, so today I am going to share my review of it; which has definitely been aided by the discussion in the book club. I will warn you that this review is full of spoilers, so if you don’t want to know what happens then stop reading now!!

IMG_8646

When I read the description of Hater posted on the book-club’s page it immediately stood out to me – the premise being that seemingly unmotivated individuals begin violently attacking other people, and this escalates throughout the entire population. These people are dubbed ‘Haters’ and the fear of them deepens as anyone could be the next to turn – your child, your husband, your best friend. As society breaks down one man and his family struggle to survive. To me it seemed like a twist on your typical zombie story, the spread of attacks isn’t described as a ‘virus’ and I always love a good survivor driven plot. However I felt let down with this novel as a whole, there were aspects that I enjoyed but at the same time there were elements which really spoilt it for me.

The novel begins with a random, aggressive attack orchestrated by ‘Simmons, regional manager for a chain of high street discount stores’ who – in the middle of a busy shopping street – suddenly feels an overwhelming sense of terror, and this threat makes him turn on his supposed aggressor an old lady ‘eighty if she was a day’. He bludgeons her to death with his own umbrella and then begins to attack the crowd around him. The narrative then switches to an observers point of view – Danny McCoyne – who becomes our protagonist. He proclaims to be sickened by the outburst but then switches to moaning about how the crowd have made him late for work.  This is a feature of Danny that we come to recognise. He represents the “every-man”, he hates his job with the council, hates his supervisor, struggles with money and when he gets home from work argues with his wife and is annoyed by his children.

The first three-quarters of this text follow roughly the same structure: vignettes of random violent attacks by these “Haters” break up the day to day life of Danny. At first these attacks seem like entirely unrelated incidents, Danny reports that the newscasters announce unusual amounts of violence in city-centres over one weekend. However as the text progresses it becomes clear that the attacks are escalating and he witnesses them happening himself, as well as being widely reported on the television.  An atmosphere of fear begins to pervade the general public; there was a scene I really thought worked at this point which highlighted the fear and tension that would arise in such a situation. Danny is at work on the reception desk when a man comes in to complain about his car being clamped. The man is in a high temper – but Danny and the other receptionist, instead of proceeding as normal, proceed to put as much space between themselves and the man as possible because they think he is a “Hater”. The moment of realisation when the man (who is not a “Hater”, just a man pissed off with the council) comprehends the fear in the pair’s eyes, and understands what they take him for was executed well. It made me think about the fear that would spread through the general population – and how it would break down normal interactions far quicker than the actual Haters.

However, for the most part – this section of the book was tedious. Danny is a character incapable of action; he constantly complains about his job yet carries on going to work after most of the city has been abandoned. When the family do decide to hole up, and stay in their house their lack of survival initiative irritated me. Danny has the chance to scope out houses and flats that have been abandoned yet he comes back empty handed. We see no evidence of the family working as a team, or of any love or connection between them.

I thought the text was going to redeem itself when Danny became a Hater – it started with him killing his father-in-law and then going after the rest of the family; and I was expecting some pretty gory scenes. The family escape and Danny finds himself in the company of some other Haters, who have wholed-up in a construction site and are trying to come to terms with what has happened. The concept of the Haters is explained a little bit more here, around 30% of the overall population have something in their genetics which has been triggered and makes them fearful of the other 70% who they know will kill them if they discover their identity. So from the Haters point of view its kill or be killed. Also they have some kind of innate connection to other Haters – Danny knows that his daughter is one and longs to have her with him. This explanation was unsatisfactory though, what triggered this change? And how do they recognise each other? The ending of the book was that the military had divided into these two factions, Haters and non-Haters, and the Haters from the military swooped in to rescue all the other Haters who had been rounded up into a death camp. The Haters then decide to band together, form a sort of resistance and the last scene is of them taking over a town.

To conclude, I loved the premise of this novel and there were scenes which were quite clever – particularly those depicting the media’s influence on the general public, and the Hater propaganda which was subtly spread. However, for me personally (and for the rest of the book-club!) there was no emotional investment in this, as the characters were unpleasant and irritating. I think I would still recommend reading it – it is quite an easy read and there are ideas in there that have stuck with me, and that I keep teasing out more in my head.

Have any of you read this book? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Becqui