It’s a very rare event when I blaze through a new book within the first two days of owning it- similarly to how often I post on this blog. But with both instances, neither happen to signify a bad thing when they do happen!
Welcome to Book Review #2 from lionsforbrkfast! I’m glad to see you’ve come back for another rambly, long-winded, and over excited review of another piece of literature I’ve read recently. If you’re just joining us and you haven’t read Book Review #1: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr -click the link and take a read (or read this one and come back, I can’t tell you what to do with your life). Every so often I’ll pick up a book that catches my eye, read it, then I’ll either be one of two things:
- So excited about it that I must tell someone else about it.
- Or so dissapointed by it that I must warn someone about it.
Today’s review adheres to #1, which should be obvious since I read this book overnight. The last time I recall doing that was when Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince had just been released. I remember picking up my pre-order at the mall at midnight (with my parents rolling their eyes at the fact that I was dressed up as Hermione Granger) and then reading it through sunrise and finishing it around dinner the that same day. Then I read it again for good measure.
With this book, I certainly didn’t pre-order it- I stumbled upon it while shopping with my Mom and sister at Target after spotting the book placed on the shelf next to it. I had happened to be debating on purchasing the book next to it for a while (Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King) when I saw that Joss Whedon had reviewed the bright yellow title to the right of Mr. Mercedes.
“Well, that’s promising.” I remember thinking when I set Mr. Mercedes back on the shelf and picked up The Girl with All the Gifts to read the synopsis on the back cover.
I won’t quote it here since the whole point of a review is to pique your interest enough to read the book, but I was curious as to how a gifted girl might need a gun pointed at her whilst she’s being strapped to a chair to go to class. What? So many questions that only reading can answer.
So of course I bought it.
So here’s a quick summary for you with minimal spoilers:
This tale takes place Great Britain in a somewhat unknown area during a period dubbed Post Breakdown- what characters in this book call the period of time in which mankind was swiftly wiped out by a mutated fungus called Ophiocordyceps, leaving only handfuls of survivors that either live off the grid or on military bases. We primarily circle around a young girl named Melanie (a little genius in the making), whom in the beginning has only known the confines of a military bunker, Sergeant, a strict schedule, and her beloved teacher Miss Helen Justinteau. After this, I’m afraid I can’t say much more without revealing too much.
Right off the bat, I can appreciate that this post-apocalyptic themed book has a somewhat plausible cause for the end of mankind. While I can enjoy a Walking Dead comic as much as the next person, the most terrifying fact of this novel is that Ophiocordyceps is a real fungi predominantly found in tropical forests. I’ve kindly linked the google results so you can try and absorb that information for a moment- this is an actual thing. But I’ll admit that I gave an audible cheer of excitement -then questioned my own sanity, when I realized that this wasn’t just a “mysterious virus” that fell from space or a strain of the flu that literally turned you into the dead walking. I was ready to stamp it with five stars and call it a day- but the plot was so good that it kept me glued to this book for nearly 24 hours.
Our author who thought up this frightening theory is M.R. Carey- which I’ll admit to anyone that I’ve been referring to him as Mr. Carey out of pure apathy. Carey has written for both DC and Marvel comics, and his works include critically acclaimed runs of X-Men and Fantastic Four. Obviously this is also not Carey’s first rodeo, his works are regularly seen in the New York Times graphic fiction bestseller list, and the man’s even got a Hollywood screenplay on his roster.
The Girl with All the Gifts was not, at first, intended to become a novel. Carey admits that this tale began as a short story, but he couldn’t shake the idea once he had finished it, and I’m glad he didn’t. While of course the issue of survival and human evolution is prevalent- he tackles ethical issues in this novel as well, some of which made me impatient with characters unethical choices. I was so emotionally linked to the situations given to a point where I had to step back and remind myself it’s just a book I’m yelling at. But it’s a good thing that these characters he created were human enough to actually evoke some sort of emotion out of the reader to that point- it’s a simple point, a Mary Sue would have simply done this book no justice. Though it can be argued that one character in this book could be one, from my own personal perspective I don’t believe one to be present in this novel.
This is the point in the review where things get tricky.
This novel is a bit of a sticky situation. It’s difficult to describe the characters to you all without completely blowing out the plot for all of you- if I haven’t already. This story is so deeply intertwined with all of it’s characters that I now see why the damn synopsis was only five sentences long and vague as an angry girlfriend. I literally cannot discuss Melanie past the point that she’s about ten years old, blonde, and very smart without giving you EVERYTHING. Helen Justinteau plays such a massive role that I can’t say much past that she’s Melanie’s favorite teacher because she actually loves the children she teaches. Bringing up anyone else could possibly take away from any shock value or put a puzzle piece in place for you and I don’t wish to take that experience from you!
“So Rachel, despite not being able to tell us shit, what would you rate this book?”
Four out of five stars.
WHOA– I know, didn’t I just rave about this book for nearly 1,000 words? Let me explain-
While the plot was spectacularly developed and intertwined around each character so that you can’t even begin to doubt why they exist- I felt as though the visual elements were not all present. I might have been spoiled by All the Light We Cannot See, but believe I had to pause and visualize the situations more often than I would have liked.
In our last review, I noted how well visualised Marie-Laure’s environment was despite her being blind. It was to a point where I didn’t have to make up my own pieces to the painting. Anthony Doerr used what could be described as texture to his painting (I’m using a metaphor- I mean his book) rather than just depend on what the painting might look like. He didn’t leave anything up for much speculation when it came to environmental factors because he couldn’t. But it made the novel even more believable and immersive.
In The Girl with All the Gifts, Brick walls were brick walls, heat was just heat, stinging was stinging. There was quite a bit of simplicity to the descriptions that didn’t make me feel like I was there. Granted, I don’t want to be there, there since this is a novel based in a highly plausible post apocalyptic world- but there was too much depth lacking for my personal taste. I don’t like to sit and make up my own visual because I find myself distracted from the story when I’m sitting staring at the book trying to think about what the chair they strap Melanie to every morning actually looks like- or feels like to Melanie. Or what it feels like when Melanie eats her meal every Sunday- again, just for the sake of making the story believable.
Now that the star knocked off has been explained, let me argue the other four.
The plot is fantastic- I’ve already said that several times, but one more time couldn’t hurt anyone. But what impressed me was that when characters argued, or discussed, the conversation did not always carry on the way I imagined it would go. If two characters that would normally agree on a topic suddenly disagree- within reason or even fueled emotionally, I’m certainly listening. Everyone agreeing all the time gets about as much done as everyone disagreeing. You need compromise and this novel has fine balance of it to carry on the conversational side of things rather well.
Emotions both fueled by ethical issues and flat out stupidity ran high for me in this novel as well. Being a rather logical thinking person, I was moaning and groaning over the attitudes of characters (IN A GOOD WAY) quite often. If I’m engaged enough to get angry or feel sad for a character enough to gasp aloud, it’s a good thing in my book.
That brings us to the end of this review ladies and gentleman! NOW- as said in the last review, I’ll be announcing my next book at the end of each review.
Next Book up for review will be:
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I hope to see you here for the next one! Don’t be afraid to leave a comment!
Thanks for reading!