Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: The Girl With All the Gifts

Title: The Girl With All the Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Published: June 19, 2014
Publisher: Orbit

This was a great read. Well-written, compelling, and fun. It first came to my attention when a number of my favorite reviewers gave it five stars and glowing reviews, and then when I saw that Orbit was its publisher. Orbit, a science fiction and fantasy division of Hachette, has been publishing great stuff recently. 
It took me a few tries over a month to get past the first few pages and start genuinely reading the book. I think the reason for that start-and-stop was the mysterious wording of the blurb and how gradually stuff is revealed early on in the narrative. But, having completed the book now, I see this as a plus. The slow revelation of certain details made for some really fun moments, especially when unexpected pieces start coming together to form a picture. 

Another strength of the book is its balance between being a character-driven and plot-driven narrative. Many books are either-or, but M.R. Carey managed to combine a cast of solid characters who develop realistically and quickly paced action.

In regards to the characters, the narration is split between five of them: Melanie, Sergeant Parks, Ms. Justineau, Dr. Caldwell, and Private Gallagher. Carey does a fantastic job of giving each narrator their own, distinct voice, while making each character slightly archetypal. Melanie manages to be both child-like and clever. Sergeant Parks is pragmatic, dry, and determined. Ms. Justineau is questioning, ethical, and feeling. Dr. Caldwell is clinical, logical, scientific. Private Gallagher's narration is the least frequent and the weakest of the five. His voice is that of a self-aware red-shirt. Usually, a book with so many narrators will frustrate me with its chopiness, but as these characters are usually in the same geographical location and participating in the same plot, the narrations managed to not be disjointed. Instead, they gave the plot a certain richness in being related by disparate, realized points of view. The book would have been weaker if Melanie was our only narrator.

My favorite narrator turned out to be Sergeant Parks, which surprised me, as his character is perceived as villainous by our early narrators. But, pretty much all of my kindle highlights wound up to be Sergeant Parks' lines or lines about Sergeant Parks. He is the comic relief of the book, and his dry humor is one of the best aspects of the book. 

In regards to plot, the book has three distinct parts, with the pace building in each part. The first takes place over a series of months, the second over a series of days, and the third over a series of hours. It's neatly done, and this organization, along with the tied strings of the ending, gave me no small amount of satisfaction as a reader. 

Despite this pat-ness, the themes of the book still manage to engage complex questions regarding humanity and disaster. This thematic nature is what gives the book five stars instead of four. There is no doubt that the book is a fun read, but it also raises subtle questions and suggests different perspectives of philosophical dilemmas. Because of this, I can see The Girl With All the Gifts being a great book for a group discussion.

All in all, I recommend this book for all genders, for both young and old adults, and for fans and skeptics of the recent zombie craze.

No comments: