The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey

This is another one of those books where I saw that a movie was coming out, and the trailer looked good enough that I felt I ought to read the book before I was inadvertently spoiled as to what happens. And then I was puzzled to discover that M. R. Carey is the pseudonym of celebrated comics writer, Mike Carey. Is the pseudonym an attempt to ensure that the novel is read by people who would otherwise dismiss it as coming from the pen of a “mere comics” writer? I’d hope not, especially since this book is so firmly within the speculative fiction genre that you’d think the target audience wouldn’t offer the same disdain to comics as “serious” readers would to them.

Anyhoo, as to the contents of the book itself. It really shouldn’t be a spoiler that this book is about zombies. And not to ghettoize zombie fiction, but there are really only so many ways one can tell a zombie story. Mr Carey does a pretty good job of it here, and I figured out the ending even earlier than Dr Caldwell did (though not necessarily what Melanie chose to do with the wall at the end.) I did think Mr Carey might have explored Miss Justineau’s feelings at the end in more depth, as she’s the closest to a reader stand-in we have at that point, but my feelings regarding Miss Justineau aren’t quite as effusive as they could be given the incredibly stupid thing she does around the halfway mark. I get that she’s concerned for Melanie, but come on. In that sense, maybe the lack of internal exploration does make sense, since Miss Justineau’s survival instinct is clearly subservient to her maternal instinct.

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the implications of what happens next. I suppose there’s a certain element of traitorousness in my satisfaction, but Melanie is a capable sort and this fictional world is in good hands, more or less. I’d be interested to read Mr Carey’s exploration of what happens next, tho I imagine it’s meant to be an exercise in speculation for each reader. I did also enjoy Sgt Parks’ equation of the teaching program with a war crime. Is it weird that I kept picturing him as played by Idris Elba?

I’m not sure if, after reading this, I’d go to see the movie, honestly. Besides the fact that I’d spend the whole movie thinking “But… Idris Elba…” instead of enjoying what I’m sure is a perfectly competent if not better performance from Paddy Considine, I don’t enjoy watching gore. But it’s prolly the kind of thing you’ll enjoy if you want to watch a zombie film based on an intelligent novel (even if the characters occasionally do extraordinarily stupid things.) I would be rather curious as to how they filmed Melanie’s first exposure to the world outside Hotel Echo, as well as her walk through the wall, but not enough to sit through the rest of it, I think.

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