Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Girl With All The Gifts

The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey was my readerly attempt at palate-cleansing, or at least palate-overwriting, after Gone Girl. This book, too, had been in my queue for awhile, with mental annotations of "this got a lot of praise" and "might be a bit creepy", based solely on half-remembered, skimmed reviews. (And possibly associating the title with Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls, which was also --- like Gone Girl --- terrifying and tense, but which I enjoyed.)

This blog is self-indulgently about me, and my thoughts and opinions, so I have no regrets about all the first-person used in that paragraph. Or in this one. I guess this is my spurt of reading books with "girl" in the title; stay tuned.

The book starts with children, strangely imprisoned and regimented, and gradually reveals hints about the broader situation of the world and the history of steps that established this near-future post(?)-apocalpyse(?). We get the sense that all is not well --- after all, imprisoning children is wrong and cruel --- and grow to sympathize with the children, which hook Carey uses to frame a lot of moral quandaries throughout the book. Children are monsters, and these children are particularly lethal and not-metaphorical monsters; they are also the most compassionate people in the book, and the adults whose decisions we criticize are those whose thoughts we can understand.

Children are foreign, and so on, childhood is a series of awakenings to harsh adult truths, adults and children are alien to each other, ... [all the trite things you might imagine can definitely go here]. I encourage you to think of them, even without having read the book, since I can't really discuss many details of the book without ruining the creepy surprises it holds. (One surprise from Google: this book's movie reversed the skin colors of the main characters. Why? That's weird.)

I liked this book, even though by the end I was firmly rooting for every character to die, and for human civilization to end. Also it was deeply creepy, in the skin-crawling way, edging along the spectrum towards that tear-off-your-own-skin-with-your-fingernails body horror of Scott Sigler's Infected.

As a palate-cleanser it failed, since it didn't leave me with warm fuzzy feelings OR with any cool new thoughts about science puzzles. I may have to resort to Terry Pratchett to reset my internal Delight Barometer. I'll probably never reread The Girl With All The Gifts, or any of the same-universe companion pieces, but I liked it.

This post's theme word is emesis (n), "the act or process of vomiting." Literary force alone has never yet induced emesis, but the mind is a powerful thing.

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