“Good morning, Melanie.”
The Girl with all the Gifts is the first book under the pen name M. R. Carey, but just another in the line of works by all time great storyteller Mike Carey. Many people outside the comic book world might not recognize the name Mike Carey, but his works Hellblazer (which was made into an awful but entertaining film starring Keanu Reeves) and Lucifer, are known to have caught the mainstreams attention winning him several awards. He has also worked with Marvel on a variety of X-men and ¬Fantastic Four runs, but my personal favorite work of his is Unwritten, which is one of the best graphic novel series I have ever read. (There is a review for the unwritten written by this reviewer and can be found over at http://www.blueflamemagazine.com. Basically it says if you love literature and can read, you need to read this series.) So how did the comic book writer fare traveling into the novel world? Perfectly.
I was very lucky to get my hands on an advanced reader copy of The Girl With all the Gifts thanks to my beautiful and wonderfully talented advanced reader connection and fellow writer Emily Coleman. Melanie is the girl with all the gifts, but raised in a cell of cement, one classroom, and leather straps on every chair, she knows nothing outside of cold walls and soldiers who do not laugh at her jokes. She hears whispers of a fallen world. She sees the fear in soldier’s eyes as they guard her and the other children. Slowly, the other children are taken away and never brought back by the guards. As her friends disappear, Melanie asks herself when she will be next. What’s on the outside of the red door? And how long will it be before the Hungries find them all.
The Girl With all the Gifts is an apocalyptic tale, and if I had known that from the beginning, it probably would’ve taken me longer to start it. With so many dystopian future books coming out, (looking at you YA) even something as dramatic as the end of all we know and love can get dull. TGWATG spits on the word dull. The bouncing narrations in the book do a great job of highlighting the world in different neon point of views. We have the cold scientist, the burdened leader, the green soldier, and the every person teacher that is trying to remind them all what it means to be human. And of course Melanie, who has the greatest chapters, because not only is she looking at this broken world through innocent eyes, but she also never knew the world before it was broken. She sees a crumbling London, and to her that is how London always was and will be. Her chapters are a constant haunting reminder that whatever we have today are just the ruins of tomorrow. This novel does a brilliant job in asking the question not how humanity will survive, but does humanity deserve to survive?
Harping on apocalypse novels a little more, my biggest regret with reading any of them is that the endings are never satisfying. There is either a dues ex machina, or the characters just kind of continue on, adverting the big challenge of the book, but still living in a messed up world with little more than they had when the book started. Both situations leave a hollow ending, with the latter being worse because there is zero resolution. TGWATG manages to avoid both, and the ending is perfect. Cyclical, cynical, hopeful, and heartbreakingly resolute is offered to any reader who opens these pages.
The Girl with all the Gifts was published in a minimal release in January 2014. The US release will happen June 2014 by Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown book club. I encourage all to buy it.
By Justin Johnson