“And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both. But you have to open it to find that out.”
Goodreads rating: 3.94/5.0
My rating: 4.0/5.0
I can’t tell you the last time a book made me cry; there have been a lot of books in recent memory that caused me a lot of sadness, anger, or frustration, but I’m not much of a crier, so eliciting such emotion from me can be a real challenge. However, this book made me cry. HARD.
This book is deeply introspective and philosophical; the ever-asked question of what makes us truly human, and how deeply is our humanity rooted into our biology, is blended seamlessly with the quandaries of ethics in a post-apocalyptic world in which one is constantly fighting for their own survival.
In the simplest statement, this book is about zombies; but these are not your customary, The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later zombies. These are previously-human creatures, infected with a fungal virus that literally weaves its way through the human body as a parasite to spread its fungal spores through saliva (bite) and blood.
These creatures are still partially alive, and in a few deeply haunting, if not disturbing scenes throughout this story, we are shown horrifying incidences of zombies going through the motions of what little they remember from their human lives.
Singing to themselves, or calling out for loved ones, not really understanding what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. But the story follows, in fact, a different kind of zombie from these creatures; a little girl named Melanie. She’s curious, intelligent, and 100% sentient. She lives in a laboratory on a military base with a bunch of other little ‘half zombie’ children, so they can be studied, and in some cases, dissected for further analysis and the hopes of finding a cure.
They’re just like real little kids; emotions and thoughts and all, yet they crave human flesh and will go into a mindless, crazed feeding frenzy just like the other zombies.
Melanie develops a very close relationship with her teacher and caretaker, Helen Justineau, who can’t help but see her for what she is; a little girl, and not a monster, despite everyone else’s hatred, disgust, and fear towards her. Through their escape from the military base when attacked by a rebel group, Melanie goes on both a literal and metaphorical journey of discovering and accepting herself, with others trying to learn from, and accept Melanie as well.
Because this book is all about thought questioning your own beliefs and ethics, and what it means to be human, it is heavily character-based. Most of the real ‘action’ doesn’t happen until the last few chapters of the book, so if you like a fast-paced novel with a heavy plot and lots of action, this may not be the book for you.
But it’s so deeply impressive to me that the author clearly took the time to research the real science behind the science fiction; the biology of zombies and how they work in this novel is incredibly detailed and interesting, even if the highly-scientific terminology is not completely accessible or understandable to everyone.
M.R. Carey is a fantastic writer, and did a wonderful job of creating such moving, complex characters. I highly encourage everyone I know to read this novel; just prepare for an ending you didn’t expect, and prepare to feel a lot of emotions.