Putting the Brains Back into the Zombie-Genre

by Zoë Goldsborough

Zombie apocalypses seem to be the most exhausted topic of the past decade. After titles such as The Walking Dead, World War Z, I Am Legend and 28 Days Later, thinking out apocalypse scenarios—especially those involving zombies—seems to be common practice for authors and screenwriters. In the wake of this flood of man-eating monsters, a very extraordinary book was written. Published in June 2014, The Girl With All The Gifts, written by M.R. Carey, appears to be a bit late to the party. However, it might mean a revival of the genre in a different, more intelligent, way. This book is not only a great read, but it also contains more well thought out zombies than most of its contemporaries.

The main character of the novel is Melanie, a little girl with a voice too mature to be understood by the other children she lives with. The only person she can connect with is her teacher, Miss Justineau, who is also the narrator in several parts of the book. However, this is no ordinary book about parental love: Melanie and the other children stay in an army base underground and are often muzzled by the adults who keep them there. By starting off in such an interesting setting, M.R. Carey instantly grips the readers’ attention and does not let go till the very end of the book. First you want to know why Melanie is there. Then, the zombies enter the story and you want to know why and how they came to be.

Here is where The Girl With All The Gifts becomes so special. Plenty of novels and movies surrounding zombies never provide any sense of explanation or insight into how the zombies work. They simply shuffle around to keep the story interesting, leaving the reader dissatisfied without any real answers. The Girl With All The Gifts does the opposite, and, to make it even better, the answers it provides are even rooted in a biological background. As a Science Major focusing on biology, I can verify that the theory this book proposes is based on processes that actually occur in nature. To add even more depth to the story, references to mythology are scattered throughout, including the title, which refers to the mythological first woman Pandora. Making a little girl the main character for most of the book can seem like something which limits the story, but Carey manages to give Melanie so much character and humanity that she is easy to relate to. Carey is a comic book veteran, and this can easily be noticed in his style of writing. The descriptions are so vivid that it is nearly impossible to not picture the settings while you read.

Truth be told, it is immensely difficult to review or recommend a book without giving away any information that is vital to the plot, especially with a book like The Girl With All The Gifts, which is so interesting because of the answers provided to the initial mystery. For this reason, all I can say is that you should buy the book yourself or find me and ask if you can borrow my copy. Meanwhile, I am simply waiting for the movie adaptation to be made so that I can watch this gripping story on the big screen.

Zoë Goldsborough, Class of 2017, is a Science Major from Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.

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