Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Girl with All the Gifts (2014)

Author: M.R. Carey  |  Page Count: 460

'…[S]ome things become true simply by being spoken. When she said to the little girl "I'm here for you", the architecture of her mind, her definition of herself, shifted and reconfigured around that statement.'

The only thing I knew about the book before picking it up was that the author, M.R. Carey, was a pen name of Mike Carey, and seeing as how I'm a huge fan of Carey's work in comics I bought it. I didn't even read the blurb on the back, not that it would have helped any. In truth, if I'd known what genre the novel fell into, then I'd probably have placed it back on the shelf. But then I'd have missed out on solid worldbuilding and characters that had more to say than it seemed at first.

The post-apocalyptic setting isn't very original and many of the events will be recognisable to fans of that kind of cinema, but woven within the familiar encounters are some thoroughly engaging stand-off and bonding moments.

The narrative voice is present tense, split between that of a young girl, Melanie, and a small number of very different adults. Melanie's education is limited, for reasons I won't divulge, but she's intelligent with well-developed cognitive abilities, so her responses and judgements aren't typically childish. Furthermore, there's both a sympathetic, fragile tenderness and a contrasting savage darkness lingering at the edge of each of them. What that means for the reader is that even mundane events take on a special kind of observational critique.

In many ways it's a road movie (okay, road book) in which the road is fraught with danger and overrun with visible reminders of why each character is wired the way they are. It forces us to ask if they would be much different if the circumstances weren't so grave. Also, for a child, trust and love are connected, two halves of the same treasure, is that something we outgrow as adults, or does it just become greyer, more complex? Those questions, and more, linger after each encounter and are the meat of what kept me page-turning into the small hours.

3½ partially normalised social contexts out of 5

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