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The Girl With All the Gifts

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The zombie genre may seem like it’s been picked clean, but Carey, a comics writer with a number of critically acclaimed X-Men titles to his name, has found some meat left on its bones. The Girl With All the Gifts imagines a world where a zombie apocalypse has occurred and humans have unequivocally lost. They’re confined to a small number of isolated enclaves and are gradually exhausting their remaining reserves, while ”hungries” — victims of a version of the Ophiocordyceps fungi, which in real life infects Amazonian ants and creepily hijacks their nervous systems — have free run of the rest of the planet. One of the few chances humans have of rebounding lies in a group of children who have been infected but have retained their sentience despite their cannibalistic urges. One child, a precocious genius named Melanie, ends up in the ravaged British countryside with her beloved teacher, a couple of soldiers, and a ruthless scientist who’s using the kids to unlock a cure to the plague — which often means vivisecting them. As they trek across England, bound for a fortress-like redoubt where society clings to life, the troupe encounters a laundry list of standard-issue zombie-story hazards — from swarming mobs of hungries to hostile humans who’ve embraced postcataclysmic barbarism — but manages to dodge clichés at every turn. The character at the story’s heart may have no pulse, but Melanie is empathetic and sympathetic, and her deeply tragic existence is proof that zombie tales can elicit an emotion other than fear. B+