The Girl With All The Gifts

By M. R. Carey

Book CoverI’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.

—Anna

The Devil You Know

By Mike Carey

Book CoverThis book is chock full of pretty much every popular supernatural creature (okay, no vampires have shown up, but I wouldn’t bet against them appearing later in the series), but they are all treated in very unusual ways. The were-beasts are sort of dim, while the zombies are snarky, and the succubae are downright vicious. The story starts off kind of slow, and reminded me quite a bit of an adult version of Anna Dressed in Blood, which I only moderately liked. (Also, just about every reviewer on GoodReads compares it favorably to the Dresden Files, which I concur with.) Once it really gets going, introducing a whole new supernatural being pretty much ever other chapter, I had trouble putting it down again.

The world-building premise is both basic and clever: what if suddenly and inexplicably the dead began to return, like a reverse apocalypse? Our reluctant hero has a natural talent for sending them back again, and works as an exorcist-for-hire when money gets tight. If all this hasn’t already sold you on this summer escapism, let me just tell you that I reserved the second book of the series at my library as soon as I finished the first one.

—Anna