I've joined a bunch of different groups on Facebook dedicated to those who read and write zombie and post-apocalypse fiction, and through one or more of those groups I was shown a trailer for an upcoming movie, The Girl With All The Gifts.
From watching the trailer, I learned of the book by the same name and went straight to my local library's website to put a hold on that baby.
I was not sorry. In my summation here I'll try my best to avoid spoilers, but I might accidentally let one or two slip. If so, I apologize in advance.
This book, by M.R. Carey, lit me up in much the same way as my other favorite in this overall genre (The Reapers Are The Angels, which I mentioned in my previous What Are You Reading? blog). The Girl With All The Gifts, to me, stands slightly apart from the great majority of zombie-based stories, for the way it integrates the zombies ("hungries"). For the most part, they fulfill the role of force, plot point, motivation etc. Their existence is what makes this particular world what it is. Zombies make the world go 'round, the world go 'round...
It's the fact there are at least two kinds of hungries which make this book stand apart from so many others, and the focus on the second kind—hungries who are not mindless brain-chomping automatons—is the major manifestation of this difference.
What strikes the hardest with this story, though, is the line-blurring which results. If you've watched the trailer up there, you most likely have worked out one of the integral parts of the tale: that the cute kiddies in the wheelchairs, all bound up, are the second type of hungry. Thinking, feeling beings who just happen to also be deadly carnivorous monsters.
I found the interplay between the major characters to be wonderful. Not too many of them like each other, and some actively hate the others. And that's just the humans. Throw in the "junkers"—humans who decided not to join our main group which is overseen by what's left of the military and government organizations—and we have tensions galore.
Though she's a major player, the character of Dr Caroline Caldwell (played by Glenn Close in the movie) is by no means a hero except in her own version of the truth. I found her utterly fascinating, though I suspect some integral elements of the book version were not carried through to the movie. In the book she has a strong streak of vanity which manifests most obviously in her near-obsessive application of bright red lipstick. Obviously something which is totally unnecessary in a post-apocalyptic world.
Her vanity is fueled in part by wounded pride, having been left off the specialist teams which were first sent out, many years before, to battle the hungries when they first arose. To find a cure. She was, in essentially the most qualified candidate not to have made the cut. Her chief desire throughout the story is some form of redemption, which really has I told you so as its dark heart.
The tensions which arise between the emotionally-guarded Sergeant Parks and the guilt-ridden bleeding-heart-ness of Helen Justineau was another major cog which drove the overall engine. Having said that, barely anyone in the story manages to avoid tensions with Sergeant Parks, who is essentially the spine of the group, and of the story. When all others are despairing or panicking, when there are no answers, he's the one who makes the hard decisions. Which only makes others hate him more in most cases.
There were a few sections which had me giving the book a bit of side-eye. Occasionally there are some hefty info dumps. Those are well-written and all, but what struck me the most was that they were often between two characters who already knew all the info being dumped. That simply struck me as a little odd.
The final payoff of the story had me holding my breath as I read. I can't even really explain how I felt, because even my reaction runs a risk of being a bit of a spoiler. But if you're into post-apocalypse, if you're into stories which veer toward literary fiction but with a heart of action and suspense, I highly recommend giving The Girl With All The Gifts a try.
As a side note, and because this blog is really more about the erotic and romantic genres, I'm also in the middle of reading Pack Challenge by Shelly Laurenston. It's book 1 in the Magnus Pack series. This book was gifted to me, and I gotta say, I'm really enjoying it. It's sassy and snappy, and pushes all the right buttons for paranormal e-rom. Some sections I've found a tiny bit difficult to follow, in part because there are several characters overlapping each other (interrupting, getting physical, that kind of thing). In fact, it's in part the smoothness of the rest of the writing which makes these sections harder for me as a reader... because I'm greasing through it quite quickly and find I've not concentrated as well as I should have! But overall, a very sexy read so far.