The Girl With All The Gifts

 NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Oh my goodness, this is one creepy, thought provokingly brilliant book.  I’d heard good things about it but curiously I’d not heard much of what it was actually about.  I can understand that now.  The fall of civilization, apocalypse, zombie type creatures, are all part of it yes (or some time after the fall) but it’s actually about a young girl called Melanie who is very curious.

The focus is very narrow, kept to what Melanie knows in the beginning and doesn’t really spread out much further than that other than a couple of different POV scenes but all kept in close proximity.  I went through so many emotions, starting off as curious as Melanie but then feeling a bit uncomfortable led to dawning horror and then so much tension I couldn’t actually put the book down because I had to find out what was happening.  Almost like having to look at something awful, just to prove to yourself that it is actually that awful.  The pace is very much tied to the plot and as things progress, things speed up and get more intense and that does not stop until the end.  I actually finished the book with my mouth hanging open.

With a very small core cast, the obvious focus is Melanie who I loved, even with the creepy factor.  Secondly is Miss Justineau, her compassion and intelligence create for some very raw scenes.  The superb writing of Carey gave us the Sergeant who I loathed… then by the end I loved.  That’s a pretty impressive turnaround in not a lot of time and shows that what you see is very much not what you get.  Caldwell, the scientist, is cold but I’m stuck between necessity and hatred where she is concerned.  She may be the only one who can get the answer but her actions are abhorrent.  The lieutenant was just a bit a fish out of water and didn’t get in the way too much.

The answer to what is going on however is mind-blowing and so very horrifying.  Yet, it’s also fascinating and in an odd way, hopeful.

A brilliant yet creepy book that will leave you thinking.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: M.R. Carey
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Genre: Horror
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The Naming of the Beasts

Felix Castor, exorcist for hire although lately he’s been dealing with some personal issues.  Namely how to stay so drunk, he can’t sober up.  Reality comes calling though and he crawls out of the gutter, cleans himself up and starts answering some of the message that have been left for him.  Instantly he wishes he hadn’t but all is not right with the people he likes to be able to call friends.  Gary Coldwood wants him to read a crime scene, something is very wrong with Juliet, and Pen has been looking for Rafi on her own. The not so well loved Jenna-Jane Mulbridge is sniffing about with an agenda all of her own and then there is Asmodeus.  It’s enough to drive a man back to drink but Castor is nothing if not a masochist.

I enjoyed this book far more than I did the previous one.  Not only was it a little lighter in tone, getting back the feel of the first three books, but the subject matter wasn’t as close to home.  All the major players feature, some loved, some not so, one by one coming on to the scene to start building towards the crescendo.

I felt the first half dragged a little bit, as the scene was being set up and things were put in to place.  The second half however was a rush and I couldn’t put it down.  It grabbed me and ran full pelt towards an end I thought I saw as inevitable.

The whole thing was cleverly written and hints given very early on in the book came to fruition much later and you start to wonder how on earth Mike Carey managed to keep all the different threads straight, let alone come up with them in the first place.  There were a few OMG moments which blind-sided me and I had to re-read those sections in case I missed anything in the run up.  I think one of those moments was an especially bold and brave move on the author’s part and it will be interesting to see if it has any future impact on the character.  If you’ve read the book, you’ll know exactly the part I mean.

Felix Castor has to be my favourite character in the book, irreverent, sarcastic and determined, you have no doubts he will get the job done or die trying.  I liked that you learned more about the other major characters, some of them proving that leopards can’t change their spots and others surprising me with their growth and realisation that not everything is black and white.

A good, solid and entertaining read, I look forward to the next instalment!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Mike Carey
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The Naming of the Beasts

The Naming of the Beasts, the fifth book in Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series starts to gather together threads laid down in the previous tales and still manages to set the scene for something even more epic.  If one were to lay any charges against Mike it would be that the books are somewhat formulaic.  Essentially Castor is trying to free his friend from demonic possession that he feels responsible for, while around him the world is gradually going to shit in a hand-basket.  He screws up a couple of times per book, underestimates both the demon and whatever evil force is also abroad and causing trouble, and then works through to some kind of conclusion at the end usually in a bitter-sweet moment of muted victory.

Like all generalisations, the previous description is both true but also inadequate because it is the detail and nuance that Mike brings to each tale that delivers the meat, the conflict; screw-up; screw-up; resolution is just the sauce.

The end of Thicker than Water left some serious threads hanging and The Naming of the Beasts picks up straight where it left off.  Castor has to work quickly to track down Asmodeus before he completes his grand escape or seeks his complete revenge, it’s not clear which is on his mind.  In order to succeed he needs to pick allies from a whole collection of lesser evils, and he needs to do it all without getting himself or any more of his friends killed.  Meanwhile, in the background is the ever growing realisation that Something Is Not Right with the world, a fact that Felix Castor can no longer ignore despite his best efforts.

Mike brings together just about everyone from the previous books that are still alive (and some that have been dead a long time) and through them drives this totally engaging and page turning story.  The pace is excellent with the whole book crammed into only a few high-strung days without it feeling crowded or rushed.  The characters are great as ever and despite being five books in they continue to develop and change.  The book is no-where near as bleak as Thicker than Water without actually being full of sunshine and the story resolves some major threads.  Despite all the praise and the page-turning nature of the story, I felt somehow underwhelmed with only muted joy at the end.  Not because it hadn’t been a good story or good ending, but because it’s clearly not The End and Castor knows it, and Mike wants us to know it.

I laughed a few times, I exclaimed in shock a few times and I was sad, but I was never moved to sitting on the edge of my seat, somehow the end of the last book meant pretty much anything that happened here couldn’t be as bad?  Castor’s insistence that he is the cause of all the trouble his friends suffer is sometimes overwhelming and it gets between me and him, I wish he’d just let go of some of the guilt at least some of the time.

In short, it’s an excellent book with a few minor issues which hardly deserve a mention except if I didn’t, it would be a short review saying nothing but good – and then you’d want to know why it didn’t get 5 stars.  If you’ve not read the first 4, go read them (make sure you have someone in the house with you when you read #4), then read this one, it’s worth it and in an ever increasingly crowded space, Mike’s prose, skill and characters stand out well above the crowd.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Mike Carey
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Thicker than Water

Being an exorcist means Felix Castor can usually be relied on when there is something ghostly going on.  It comes as a bit of a surprise when his name turns up written in blood by a man he hasn’t seen or heard of for nearly twenty years.  Called to the scene as a consultant with the Met, he now finds he has to defend himself from accusations of assault and no clue as to what happened.  And something strange is going on in the surrounding estate.  Names and faces from a painful past come to the fore and Fix finds himself in the middle of something that just might be bigger than he is.

If I could choose a word to sum up this book it would be: Bleak.  That’s not to say it’s not an excellent book with the story both engaging and absorbing, it’s just a tad on the bleak side.   I love the character of Fix but I do want to smack him round the head sometimes, he carries far too much guilt imposed by himself and others around him.  Maybe that just makes him all the more human.  I also found one of the main themes of the book very challenging from a personal point of view and while that coloured how I felt about it, I thought Mike Carey wrote about it with tact and made it integral to the story rather than a ‘oh look how bad I can make it’.  All in all it’s an excellent book but for me, not an easy read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Mike Carey
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)