NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING.
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: Zombies with a unique, never-seen-before twist; intense, thrilling story-telling; intriguing cast of characters; chilling, horrifying scenes; a full-circle conclusion
Up until a few days ago, I didn’t know this book even existed. It was recommended to me by a friend on Goodreads, and after reading the blurb, I decided I needed to give it a shot. I just finished this read about five minutes ago, and I have to say…I think I left my brain trapped somewhere in its pages. My head is burbling, my heart is confused. I just don’t know quite what to do with myself right now.
First and foremost…this book redefines and reexamines EVERYTHING I ever thought about zombies and the zombie plague. Outbreak. Virus. Whatever you want to call it. Because in this book…it’s not ANY of these. Not really. It’s a fungus…and it’s out for more than just blood and guts. It’s out to breed…and become something else entirely.
Melanie is the kind of character you find only once in a great while: Self-reliant, strong despite finding out the truth of her existence in a harsh and cold way…and all too endearing to be safe. Because Melanie has been “brought up” in a lab on an army base. Locked in a cell at night and on the weekends, her entire world is four stone walls and a bed. Every morning, she is strapped to a wheelchair and pushed into a classroom for lessons. Once a week, she is fed a bowl of worms and bathed in a chemical solution. But Melanie isn’t just another “girl”–Melanie is something not quite human, not quite monster. And because of this, she’s dangerous.
When the army base she and the motley crew of characters we’re introduced to is attacked by other people (junkers, as they’re called) and a horde of creatures (called hungries) used as weapons, Melanie finds herself getting her first taste of freedom…and something more tasty than the meat they’re given once a week. And while she’s determined to keep her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau, safe from the world and herself…she knows it’s only a matter of time before she can’t control the hunger any longer.
The writing of this book is so gorgeously done. There’s a sense of…distance the author keeps between the characters and the readers in the beginning that made me squirm and fidget nervously. The reveal, while pretty easy to see coming once you’ve gotten a sense of the world, is still daunting.
Quickly, however, the walls between the characters and Melanie disappear as they band together to battle the unknown and find their way to a safe (for most of them) haven. The characterization of each stands out and grows as the story continues; the arc for most of them is so beautifully done, so realistic, this might have happened to actual people.
There are also plot twists that AREN’T so easy to see coming, and it was these that I was most taken aback by. M.R. Carey has created a world in this book that is at times entirely plausible…and much, MUCH more terrifying than anything I’d considered myself. The world-building, the plot line, and the characters all work together to weave something gorgeous and mystifying, a journey that is bound to leave readers (much as it left me) breathless at the end.
I REALLY enjoyed the place this book took me; I kept forcing myself to set it aside so as not to finish it all at once (and because this is such a heavy, HARD read–just because it weighs on you). Definitely a new favorite to add to my list, I highly recommend to lovers of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and zombie plagues/plausible futuristic stories. Hats off to M.R. Carey for catching me by surprise!