Cover of The Girl With All the Gifts (Image via Orbit)
3. The Girl with All the Gifts
Yet again, the glimmer of hope in this story comes at the expense of the adults. Growing pains within a generation aren’t often this intense, but it makes for a compelling plot.
The Girl with All the Gifts , by M. R. Carey, starts out in an exceedingly grim state. The book focuses on Melanie, a young child who has been infected with a mutant of the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus.
Two decades ago, when this fungus first came onto the scene, it infected people and turned them into mindless monsters called hungries. Surviving humans were forced to retreat to heavily fortified places, such as military installations or a city known as Beacon.
But something strange has been happening lately. People have been discovering children who, despite being infected by the fungus since birth, have retained their sentience. They still can’t control their hunger around uninfected people, however. In order to study the children, scientists and soldiers imprison them, while coating themselves in chemical compounds to disguise their delicious human smell. With the children strapped to wheelchairs, both groups are able to communicate.
One teacher at the base, Helen Justineau, grows especially fond of Melanie, who has a genius-level intellect. However, the base is soon overrun with hungries. Justineau takes Melanie and flees, along with a small group of scientists and soldiers.
However, it soon becomes clear that Melanie is the true future of humanity. Hungries and humans simply cannot coexist. Moreover, the humans are clearly losing.
Though uninfected humans resist with all their might, their world is ending. That’s plenty grim for them, but it is clear that thanks to the work of Justineau and others, the intelligence and spirit of humans will live on.