|The Girl with All the Gifts|
When Ben and I were honeymooning in Hawaii, we headed out one morning and drove to the other side of the island to see the Volcano National Park. With a few hours of driving ahead of us, we compromised on World War Z as the book on tape we would listen to (Ben likes historical non-fiction, I like fiction with a good story. A zombie book told in the style of a documentary seemed like a good compromise). We stayed past dark at the volcano (to see it emit beautiful red light at night) and drove home afterwards. Here's the thing about the interstate of Hawaii: there are many, many long stretches with NO LIGHTS. And no population. So, besides the light from a million beautiful stars, it is PITCH BLACK. We were usually the only car on the road. And with World War Z playing on the car stereo, with it's haunting "dboom dboom" between each chapter and haunting depictions of zombie attacks, we were past the point of logically scared. Every creak or unexpected bump in the road gave us both pounding hearts and nervous jitters. We were scared more than we would ever admit to each other. We had to turn off the book, and even then were on edge. World War Z is a scary zombie book. I won't even see the movie now.
The Girl with All the Gifts is not that kind of zombie novel.
Your normal zombie assumptions apply: they want to eat humans, you become a zombie if you are bitten by one, etc. What ends up being different is that there are 2 classes of zombies: (1) Your typical, brainless, non-human brain muncher and (2) the a-typical zombie: they can think and speak, feel happy and feel fear, but even just a whiff of human pheromones will send them spiraling into a type (1) zombie feeding rage.
Plus, the post-apocalyptic world the author has imagined seems genuine. Events make sense and you have an intuit understanding that it is likely what the world would be like, should 98% of the world's population become zombies (unlike, say, the strangely safe and navigable world of Station Eleven, which managed to have a traveling Shakespeare company just a few years after their world fell apart). There aren't very many stretches. People have motives and emotions, they love and fear, and you understand why the whole time.
And then, many hours later, the ending comes. And it smacks you that there was no other way for the book to end. It had been leading up to that moment the entire time, even if you didn't realize it until the very last chapter. And you don't know whether to cheer, or be sad, or just nod in understanding and... and... I've probably said to much already, so I will stop. In summary: read The Girl with All the Gifts. And then please, please come back here and tell me how you feel. Because I'll probably still be unsure.