SPOILER ALERT: it’s not possible to discuss this book without giving away some of its content. So read no further if you want it to be a total surprise…
The opening chapters of this novel beat me around the brainstem and had me transfixed, flicking through the pages as I fast I could absorb the situation.
It opens in a weird schoolroom which incorporates extreme daily routines for the ‘unusually gifted’ pupils. This set-up, combined with the understated but convincing post-apocalyptic scenario, proved to be the perfect lure to get me engaged with Melanie, our heroine, and the cast of supporting characters.
The first few chapters are all very, very clever; deftly written with a credible scientific set-up and an entirely original culprit for the Awful Thing which has overwhelmed civilisation.
And then TGWATG turned into little more than just another zombie apocalypse story, with biting and trudging and foraging and rival survivors, running, screaming, so forth, and… somehow, something very special turned into something quite ordinary. Better than the average end of the world, mindless jaw-snapping, teeth-grinding, blank-eyed trope but far less than it initially promised.
Once the survivors hit the road and begin their unlikely trek through the hungry-infested badlands of England’s home counties, the only real reason to continue reading is Melanie’s personal development. The evil scientist uncovers the not-so-shocking truth; the hard-ass soldier thaws somewhat, and we’re left with a not entirely convincing plot device which we have to swallow whole for the ending to make any sense.
Weirdly, if I had known before starting it that this was an everyday tale of the flesh-eating undead, then I might have enjoyed it more. But the coy marketing ploy of disguising its central conceit kinda backfired for me.
I liked the fungi and the clever pseudo-science explanation for the ‘hungry’ infection, however. But that wasn’t enough to make up for slightly short-changed feeling about the rest of the book.
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