The Girl With All The Gifts

A Book Review 

The Horror director Joe Dante (Gremlins) once said if you wanted gauge a measure of decade then look at the Horror films they made at time, or words to that effect. Zombies are every where at the moment , TV , books , video games and even Lego had some Zombies.

M.R Carey embraces the zombie Zeitgeist. In his novel The Girl with all the gifts. Although they aren’t not called zombies no they are called hungries. And they are stalking the home counties like a an accountant that can no longer afford London.

Carey has taken the zombie in popular culture and melded something rather special from it. One part walking dead (I am not a fan of), one part Romero’s Day of the dead and one part the last of us (one of the most emotionally charged video games made – also with a zombie premiss). With a touch of 28 days later.

Carey’s main theme centres around the arcing story between teacher Helen Justineau and Melanie the aforementioned Girl with all the gifts. From student and teacher on a post collapsed military base but Melanie isn’t a normal child. Sub-plotted with Melanie’s relationship with Sargent Parks and Dr Caldwell. There are others but for me the relationship between these three are the stand out for me.

The story becomes classic Zombie/post apocalyptic fair. A military trying to hold to what they know, relationships between a group of people who would normally avoid each other down the local pub, A Dr needing to know more and the typical gang of outcast and survivalist know as junkers (think Mad Max beyond the thunder dome).

Carey uses the normal plot device of moving his characters from one safe location to another, along the lines of the walking dead and he could have easily fallen in to that territory, but manages to keep the pacing to the point where the reader wants the gang to move on and finally reach that safe place.

Although a number of the familiar plot devices and stereotypes are there which in hindsight could have made this another Zombie story. Carey manages to use these to his advantage both giving the reader a safe narrative and unfamiliar paths. Carey also writes his characters that the reader wants to route for them and are willing to forgive them for anything. Even when one admits to the murdering of a child.

The book excels in not only turning a familiar story around but it also explores relationships, love and the desire to survive when the chips are down.

The book resonated with me, but then that maybe I live near one of the areas mentioned in the story. I am looking forward to Carey’s next work.

Advertisements

What ever happend to the working class?

I am from Hoxton, not that trendy Hoxton from the Timeout and the Guardian but the real Hoxton. When I was a kid you told someone you was going to Hoxton square after dark, you was met with a steely gaze and the local mental hospital was informed.

 

For Hoxton back then could have been described as a bit “Tasty”. Muggings and murders dominated the local press. There was no Byron burgers or clubs with guest lists. Instead it was knives and brasses turning tricks. The hair cut , wasn’t a floppy “ironic” do , it is now. No it was a number 1 crew cut. And glasses had glass in them, not just a pair of frames. If you was wearing pink skinny trousers and a plaid shirt back then ;chances are you was a probability you was of to the London Apprentice.

 

Back then the most important building in Hoxton was the DHSS, followed by the Job centre and then the Pie and mash shop. A proper style one it was too, saw dust on the floor and populated with thieves and con men. Oddly enough it is next to the undertakers. The Pie shop still stands a symbol of the old east London. Amongst it’s celebrity chef restaurants and a gastro pubs. Pubs back then was a spit and saw dust affair. You went to Hoxton 20 years ago and that’s what it was, old time east London. Yes it was sometimes daunting; after all a lot of the working class types can be right cunts at times. But it’s old London.

 

It’s changed now, Hipsters in their early twenties to their late should know betters and get a real job. Have sort of turned it in to a ghetto of middle-class artist. The working class, not the underclass as that is something completely different are getting priced out of their homes. Listed canal side buildings are being torn down and turned in to studios. At the price of history after all the Hipster movement will die and it will be an embarrassing blight on society. One day the shit hair cuts, stupid clothes, bad tattoo, the faux intellectual will be gone. But it will also take a couple of hundred years of history with it too. Down the drain, for fashion.

 

The canal warehouses, the stables , the factories and the history are just as culturally important to London and England as the Pyramids are for Egypt. When did people who couldn’t fight there way out of a paper bag, get to ruin it for the rest of us? And what happened to the working class?

George Carlin said

“The poor are there to scare the shit out of the middle class” Thinking about it , that’s what I feel bus routes do. Let the middle class venture through the poor areas to get to their homes and multi national , multi billion pound soulless institutions they work for.

Route 21 is the one of them beacons of London ; the big red bus and it’s route takes you from the well off , through the mega rich and to the poverty that is Lewisham. All the people in their nicely cleaned suits, dry cleaned shirts and hand-made shoes start at Newington green move along the road picking-up people who are a pound short to live in the bohemian parts of Islington. Past new developments and apartments thundering its way to the city.

It crosses the London bridge flanked on the pavement with more suits and women with their breast pushed up under their necks and pencil skirts , high heels and hand bags they don’t need but it was on sale in Harrods and celebrity X had it in magazine Y. And all the people in the suits , ties and shoes disembark form the bus. Never finding out what lays past the bridge. And the people with the word service stitched on their shirts or here to help across the back get on. And a suit of a different kind occupy the seats taken from them off the peg numbers. Almost the shoes and ties are to scared to venture in to them dark waters.

And then the dark side of London appears soulless grey blocks of flats. The big shops have not broken the market and the graffiti simply says fuck. The breast aren’t under the women’s necks any more and they all look like they would turn a trick and you would get change out of a £5 note. And bits of police tape still wrapped around lampposts and all the people are moving away from the area never going towards it.

I am sure most people going to London bridge never sees this London but its there after all. They may not see it but they know it’s there. After all “The poor are there to scare the shit out of the middle class”.