I began this book with a little nervousness. The prequel aspect was intriguing but I had loved The Girl With All The Gifts so much I did not want to taint the memory of discovering Melanie and watching her story unfold.
This book is much the same again but yet so different, a plucky band of scientists and military protectors are sent to gather research evidence from pods dotted about the British Isles in a seemingly vain attempt to find a way to cure the Cordyceps fungal infection that has decimated the population.
Here the central battles are less physical, but a between duty, honour and maintaining humanity in the face of what seems a lost cause.
Genius Savant Teenager Greaves, An autistic youth with an eidetic memory and superlative analytical skills provides the emotional centre with another kindly woman acting as his moral compass and object of innocent affection, much like Melanie’s narrative herself .
Each have an ally in each other as government and Millitary machinations roil around them like ever more ominous rain clouds about to release a catastrophic deluge. The individual grudges, self servicing and personal preservation of some of the characters paints them as the real beings to fear.
Here as in the first book, the Feral Children pose the highest risk to life and limb. Their particular existence is scarier than any zombie Horde. The best and worst hope for humanity packed into tiny bodies with lethal ferocity.
It was nice to see the origins of Rosie, almost a character in herself, sanctuary and battle-bus and the saviour of the day in The Girl, and pretty heroic in this story too. She alway puts me in mind of the Thunderchild in HG Wells The War Of The Worlds.
Greaves takes a moral stand for all living creatures, finding empathy for the monstrous and revealing that the theory of “victim” in any situation is as fluid as the life’s blood that all survival hangs on.
The Epilogue here is a work of utter genius and a reward that makes all the angst and moral vacillation throughout the rest of the book totally worthwhile. For that alone I suggest you read this accomplished prequel after The Girl With All The Gifts for a fully rounded and satisfying reading experience.