By M. R. Carey
I’ve only paused in working my way through the Flavia de Luce series, which I’m continuing to love, because a reserve that I’d placed a while ago at the library finally came in. I hadn’t intended to find an appropriately spooky book for Halloween, either, but I guess things just aligned that way.
io9 gave The Girl With All The Gifts a raving but very coy review. Having read Carey’s other novels, I was willing to take the plunge on this one without more detail about the book itself. This novel has a similar setting as his others, of a dystopian London, but ratchets up the suspense significantly. This is due in large part to the truly excellent characters. I found some of Carey’s previous characters a little cartoony, but his characters here are very real. The novel shifts viewpoints between the various characters, so the reader gets wildly different perspectives on the same situation. Because there is no objective voice, I found my judgments of characters and situations constantly evolving.
The Girl With All The Gifts opens with a strange 10-year-old girl, locked in a small cell in an underground bunker, along with dozens of other children, who are delivered to and from a classroom each day under armed guard. This is all she (and the reader) knows, and while she doesn’t care for the guards, she loves her teacher and is not unhappy.
The book slowly expands from there, with the multiple perspectives helping the reader put the pieces together, which is half the fun, so I certainly don’t want to spoil it here.
In lieu of a longer book description, here’s another Halloween recommendation. I decided that I couldn’t stomach another season of American Horror Story, so to fill the void, I decided to watch HBO’s Carnivale, which I’ve been meaning to watch for years. And it is exactly what I wanted: suspenseful and creepy without being gross. Also, I was congratulating myself on being so smart to recognize all the religious symbolism in the first episode, before I saw how heavy they were hitting in the second episode, so there’s that.
Oooh, I’m so glad you reviewed this! I keep seeing it mentioned, but could never decide if I would just be annoyed at how weird it is (I have an admittedly-low weirdness limit). Plus, the brief description kept reminding me of The Bone Season, which I did NOT like. But this makes it sound pretty cool!
You know, I was dubious the first few times I saw it mentioned, too, and I think it was because everyone kept pretty quiet about the actual plot (which, of course, I’m doing, as well), and I have trouble trusting that.
I have a fairly high weirdness limit, I think, but I thought this was much more grounded and realistic, and less weird, than the reviews made it sound. Like the world itself is pretty weird (though more of a different take on a familiar setting), but I can’t overstate just how well-written and normal and relatable the characters are. I hadn’t heard of The Bone Season, but just reading the description of it on Amazon, it sounds significantly different; I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that The Girl With All The Gifts, despite the title, does not deal in mysticism at all.
Well, that was a book! I thought it was weird, but I liked it and was happy to keep reading it. But it would be almost impossible to describe to someone, or to talk about with someone who hasn’t read it.