The Girl with All the Gifts
By M.R. Carey
Orbit, 2014


The Girl with All the Gifts is a post-apocalyptic science fiction/horror novel written for a general audience. It has received generally good reviews.

"Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh."

We start the story in a Very Odd School for Very Odd Children. It doesn't take us too very long to find out why the kids are restrained and what the adults are trying to accomplish, but I felt that slowly discovering these facts were the single best part of the story, so I won't spoil it for you. Suffice to say, the kids, and especially Melanie, are interesting and well-developed characters that make the process of discovery much more engaging than it might otherwise be.

Carey's writing style is easy to read and full of hooks, and succeeds in gripping the reader quite well. The author balances the innocence of the children and the dark aspects of the story, although it slowly tips more to the horror end of the spectrum as the story goes on; there is a reason that this novel does not appear in the young adult section with the rest of the dystopian future novels.

This is a very popular book, and most people give it good reviews. Those who do not, myself included, primarily have the same complaint; this book starts out great, but ends up as a rather clich├ęd dystopian future novel. The ending is a mix of too dark, too familiar, a touch of jump-the-shark... but not, I have to admit, boring. And I should emphasize that the later part of the book is not bad, it is simply not as fun, interesting, and engaging as the author has led us to expect.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes zombie-esque stories -- spooky and violent, and a battle against a dark and uncaring enemy at overwhelming odds. While I didn't love it, that's mostly because I read the first few pages and immediately decided that that was the story I wanted to read, not realizing that that was not actually a very good example of the overall novel. It is an engaging and quick read, and while it has a touch of the "written to be a popular book" feel, it doesn't feel boilerplate or predictable.

There is currently one sequel, The Boy on the Bridge -- although not quite a sequel; the author describes it as a "prequel, equal, sequel."