Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bite Me

Hola Readers!  Who is ready for a promised rambling?  Cool, let's get to it.  Today's book is one that was given to me by one of my favorite firehouse buddy's waaaaaaay back in October.  It has been on my TBR pile since then, but various circumstances have conspired to keep pushing the book back until this last month.   The book is The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey and ended up being both exactly what I thought it was going to be, yet at the same time entirely different...As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Melanie is a just a school age girl living in a post apocalyptic world...except that her life is limited to a cell and a classroom.  Melanie it turns out is part of...a test subject group of children...(the ellipses are 'cause I don't know how else to describe them.) Anyways during the week Melanie and her classmates are taken from their individual cells and strapped into wheelchairs.  They are also masked and muzzled.  The kids are then wheeled into a classroom where various teachers teach various topics with various degrees of success.  Ms. Justineau is Melanie's favorite and is probably the most effective teacher of the bunch.  Ms. Justineau is also drawn to Melanie, feeling as if she is special in someway.  So pretty quickly we find out that the world has been ravaged by humans turned zombie and that the children are a weird mutant strain of said zombie that are being studied on the military base they are being held.  Turns out that a strain of fungal infection that has mutated from Iphigenia In Aulis (which is a real thing) has jumped species and turned humans into some form of zombie carrier for the fungal spore.  The kids that are part of this strange class are all high functioning infected group called hungriest.  Melanie is by far the smartest and most inquisitive of the group.  Dr. Caroline Cadwell is our resident mad scientist who is willing to do whatever it takes to find a cure for the infection and that includes cutting up the infected kids, using the excuse that they haven't been human since infection.  Eventually the base is over run by humans known as "junkers" that are so far uninfected humans that live off the grid.  The only people to escape are Melanie, Dr Cadwell (who had been just about to dissect Melanie), Ms. Justineau (who went to rescue Melanie), Sgt. Eddie Parks (the hard ass with a heart of gold guy in charge of this whole circus) and Kieran Gallagher ( a young and borderline idealistic soldier).  The group progresses through the landscape in the hopes of reaching the main human settelment on the British Isle called Beacon.  Along the way each member of the group has to cope with what Melanie is, a hungry that has the appearance and mannerisms of a child.  She is intelligent, able to make her own choices and yet still has the hunger for living flesh that her "hungry" counterpoints all have.   Each person deals with it in a different way.  Ms. Justineau essentially believes that she is all little girl who just has an unfortunate disease and needs to be protected.  Dr. Cadwell see's her as her ticket to scientific glory and nothing more then a case to be dissected and studied.  Sgt. Parks see's Melanie as a both an insurmountable danger and an assets and is constantly torn between both view points.  Mr. Gallagher usually just forgets that Melanie is anything more then a child.  As the motley group progresses they come across all manner of hungries.  Most of them are mindless flesh eaters, but a few seem to retain some semblance of their old humanity to varying degrees.  Eventually they end up in London and discover hungries with weird gray stalks growing from their bodies.  Turns out that eventually the fungus eats up the body and starts to grow itself to release new spores.  After much intro and extrospection (that's a word...right?) the group ends up attacked and reduced.  In the end, right before she dies, Dr. Caldwell discovers that some few humans hang on to enough humanity to reproduce and those kids who are born with the infection are much more intelligent and human like...hence Melanie.  The remenents of the group run into a strange grey wall that appears to be massive amounts of fungus stalks with seed pods that burst when set on fire.  More fighting, dying and expounding and Melanie comes to a realization.  She puts Ms. Justineau, the sole remaining human in a bio suit then proceeds to set the grey wall on fire, releasing the spores.  See, Melanie figures that the more human infected hungeries are the next generation in human evolution and started spreading the spores to hasten the process, keeping Ms. Justineau to teach the new hungry children.
World Building - The world is fairly complete, with nothing to original until we get to the gray stalk wall, which adds a bit of surreal otherworldlyness to the whole deal. It is pretty much a destroyed modern day London and surrounding areas in a slightly futuristic and destroyed vibe.  Pretty whole and complete zombie apocalypse with a fungal twist.

Story - The story was an interesting mix of run of the mill zombie with bits of originalness (I'm just making up words all over this post).  The mechanism of the zombie infection was pretty original, and I liked that it had real origins (more on that in a minute).  The real story though is Melanie and everybody's reaction to her.  I have read various thoughts on what the supposed "twist" was in the book, and I would say the ending, with Melanie essentially dooming the whole British Isle and possibly all of humanity, while still possibly saving them was perhaps the most unexpected part of the least for me.

Character - One of the best and worst parts about this book is probably the characters.  On the one hand you have characters like Melanie, who is very accepting of what she is, practical and able to adapt.  She is able to understand what she is without letting it overwhelm her, which is more then I can say for many adults.  On the other hand most of the other characters come across and pretty stock.  We have our mad scientist ho is willing to go way to far in the name of science.  The sweet teacher with a past that just wants to love the poor abandon child, the super gruff with a hidden heart of gold soldier...etc...That being said, even with the...tropieness of most of the characters, I still found myself engrossed in their story and sympathizing with most of

Editing - For the most part the editing was fairly decent.  The story moved forward and mostly made sense.  The chapters skipped around with different view points, which for the most part was pretty cool as we didn't only see the story from one perspective.  Every once in a while the transition between chapters was a bit jarring, but mostly it was pretty readable.

The Fungus - Ok, so my logical brain both loved and hated the explanation for the zombie plague.  On one hand the idea that the infection stemmed from a real fungus that really does turn living
creatures (albeit ant's) into fairly legit zombies is pretty cool.  It gives a fairly realistic way for this usually unrealistic plague to happen.  The progression of the fungus also is pretty well thought out and did not trigger any of my "oh right, like that would ever happen" bells.  On the other hand, the piece I do take issue with is that these monster flesh eating creatures would on occasion be lucid enough to get pregnant, carry the kid, give birth, not eat the baby, and then the baby would survive long enough to become the next step in the evolutionary process...not so much...Yeah.

The Author - This is the book that actually inspired my previous post.  I was reading it and thinking it was written for YA by an author that writes for that genre (I don't know why that was my assumption, but their you go.).  Anyways, I was actually a bit on the fence 'cause while I don't feel our youth should be sheltered or talked down to...this book just did not really vibe as one I would hand to a 12 year old.  Then I did some research and discovered who the author was and who the real intended audience was and magically the book totally changed tone for me.  In this case it made the overall experience infinatly better.  It is a gritty book that does not pull any punches and it fit's the authors more comic book style very well.  I also learned that the author wrote the screeenplay for the movie simultaneously, and that he stated that it was purposely different from the book.   I have not seen it yet, but if it is worth it, I'll post about it later.

Expectations - This book was a weird dichotomy for me because it was both exactly what I thought it would be and surprising at both the same time.  I was expecting a book about a kid who was a zombie but not,,,and that is exactly what it was.  On the other hand, the book was much much darker and grittier and philosophical then I had anticipated.  It was strange to read a book that pretty much did everything I expected it to, and yet still had the power to surprise me with various tidbits and actions.  I also feel like the genre/age group that this book was intended for gets muddled.  The idea of the whole book, leads me to feel like it should be a YA book, but the reality is that I feel it is intended for a bit more of a mature audience

Overall Impression - Almost two weeks later I still haven't gotten a handle of how I really feel about this book.  I know that it made me think, which I love.  I know that it made me spend most of a flight talking Hubbins ear off about various things, also good.  I know that it frustrated me 'cause it could have been even better, the ending could have been phenomenal instead of merely great.  The expectations could have been set differently...who knows...I guess I give the book 7 out of 10 bowels of maggots and recommend it to anybody looking for a good zombie book with a hint of something different.  Happy Reading Everybody!

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