Author M.R. Carey, who has worked
for years in comics, fully knows the power of some nice, gooey zombie
imagery, and there's plenty of it to be found here; It's hard to tell
which carries the biggest gross-out factor — the queasy descriptions of
faces veiled with gray spores or the anomalous, uncanny mannerisms of
the infected. But the story's primary concern isn't getting its ensemble
out of Dodge alive so much as it is the examination of what it means to
survive this epidemic in the first place.
The characters bring
their doctrines with them, ranging from stubborn empathy to
kill-'em-all militarism, and every decision becomes a fractal of ideals.
Some of these arcs feel more preordained than others, but even then,
Carey allows for conflict within consistency: Dr. Caldwell is
unwaveringly intent on the pursuit of a cure and willing to sacrifice
anything (including Melanie), which positions her as both friend and
foe, often within the same sentence.
Occasionally, the book
seems to trip over itself in its race to get ahead of the genre pack. In
particular, Carey succumbs to the fate of many an adult author
attempting to voice a precociously otherworldly child, and the tone of
Melanie's point-of-view chapters veers occasionally and abruptly in one
direction or the other. But there's enough weight given to the moments
of individual choice to balance the camera-ready action scenes.
The Girl with All the Gifts
is grotesque and grimly hopeful by turns, underscored by lovingly
detailed infection in both metaphorical and very literal terms: Spores
and hopelessness are equally contagious. It's the creeping inevitability
of many a zombie story, with which this book is right at home.