The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

girlWhat makes us human? What part of our existence makes us who we are? What puts us above others who do not categorize themselves in the same checklist as us? Is it our job to protect those that are different than us, or is it our duty to lord our authority over their existence? Within his novel M.R. Carey takes you through a thrilling, bittersweet journey that answers these questions and ultimately depicts what it means to be human.

Melanie knows nothing but her everyday schedule within her four concrete walls. She has seen nothing but concrete since as long as she can remember. She is used to having always at least two guards escort her to and from the classroom with guns drawn. She is used to being locked into her wheelchair with straps from her neck down to her ankles while her lessons with the other children take place, each in their own fortified chairs. She does not understand why the guards do not laugh when she says, ‘don’t worry I won’t bite.’ What Melanie does know is her love for her favorite teacher Miss. Justineau; her ancient Greek myths story-time the children and her treating the children like they are kids, earns her a special place in Melanie’s heart that she did not know was empty. Melanie is the brightest of her class, but when the stern, brooding sergeant comes in one day and yells at beloved Miss. Justineau, Melanie can’t get one phrase out of her mind, “ Not everyone who looks human is human.” She could not unravel the unknown riddle, and she does not understand why sometimes children leave and never come back.

M.R. Carey has not written the typical zombie novel. Melanie completely breaks that mold, as she embodies what it means to be human without fully being that. She is naïve, has hopes and dreams, and experiences love just as deep as any other person even though she is considered a monster. Carey uses beautiful language and imagery in the process of describing a devastated, dying world through the eyes of a child who sees its true beauty for what it is, “ A landscape of decay – but still gloriously and heart-stoppingly beautiful. The sky overhead is a bright blue bowl of almost infinite size, given the depth by a massive bank of pure white cloud at a the limit of vision that goes up and up like a tower.” Carey uses an underlining theme of Greek Mythology that involves origin myths and classical stories in order to compliment this novel centered around the ‘end of the world’ as well as to express human suffering not only physical but on a deeper level.

Miss. Justineau tries to do all that she can in order to protect her ‘class’ from the higher ups in one of the last standing military bases north of London. How do you tell a class of 30 ten year olds that the world for the past few decades has been ravaged by a fungus called ophiocordyceps and that when in its host eats all but vital areas in the brain creating ‘hungries’ that only live to fulfill their basic instinct to survive. You can imagine what their diet consists of. She does not see how the rest of the people on base cannot see the children for what they are… children. Even though she knows and has been told several times that the children are already gone. “When you walk into that classroom, you think you’re talking to children. But you’re not, Helen. You’re talking to the thing that killed the children.” The parasite has just not yet devoured all of their delicate minds reducing them to nothing more than the monsters outside of the walls of base. Miss. Justineau refuses to believe this and vows to protect the children no matter the cost.

When the base is overcome by hungries just as Melanie is about to ‘disappear’ as the other children had to be examined by Dr. Caldwell, the unexpected happens. She is rescued by none other than Miss Justineau. Even though Melanie does not understand the hunger that begins to edge itself into her when Miss. Justineau cradles her and tells her everything is going to all right, she has only one thought in her mind that pushes the hunger away, “ I love you Miss. Justineau. I’ll be a god or a Titan for you, and save you.” Thanks to her they are able to escape and find others who have escaped as well: the ever-brooding sergeant focused on everyone’s survival, a young scared officer trying to stay alive, and Dr. Caldwell who is only concerned with the safety of her last ‘specimen’ to fulfill her research. They embark on the journey back to one of the remaining safe bases south of London and learn along the way that they must work together in order to survive no matter how high the tension between each other. Whether they, the sergeant and doctor, like it or not, they need Melanie to be able make it through the journey.

Along the road they are forced to confront what they believe about the world and its future as well as they how they label and understand Melanie. She is the key to their future whether they want to believe it or not in a way that no one could have predicted. Through love and loss the fate of the human race is saved, dependent on what your own definition of ‘saved’ means.

Reviewed by Elizabeth L ’18

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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

aldousIn “Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley constructs a futuristic dystopia where every human is born, or grown to be exact, on assembly lines, conditioned and ranked, from tall and intelligent Alphas who run everything to midget and foolish Epsilons who clean up. Others, Betas, Gammas and Deltas, take their places in between. Despite their differences, all World State’s citizens are taught to be content with their roles through hypnopedia, have complete sexual freedom without the constraints of monogamy and grow up in the absence of books, arts, individual freedom and human connections. The World State’s motto is stated loud and clear on the first page, “Community. Identity. Stability.”

In the World State, the government exerts totalitarian control through genetic engineering and prenatal conditioning. Bernard Marx is an Alpha whose blood surrogate was contaminated with alcohol, a process used to hinder the physical growth of the lower castes, causing him to be much smaller than a typical Alpha. He has a strong resentment for the system because his un-Alpha-like stature makes him an outcast in the society. Somehow, Bernard manages to convince Lenina, an attractive Beta Minus, to visit the Savage Reservation, where people who still breed naturally live, with him. Here he met and brought John, aka the Savage, back to the World State. The rest of the novel tells the journey of the Savage in a world where “Everyone belongs to everyone else.”

John is most troubled by the World State’s residents’ dependence on soma, a drug used by the government to maintain social order and to help its users escape from any negative human emotions such as sadness, pain, anger, jealousy and discomfort; it is described as “Christianity without tears.” Later in the novel John meets with Mustapha Mond, one of the ten World Controllers, and through their discussion, Huxley reveals his criticism for the exorbitant consumerism and pleasure-seeking lifestyle of the 1920s.

“‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.’

‘In fact,’ said Mustapha Mond, ‘you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.’
‘All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, ‘I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.’ ‘Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis

and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.’”

The people use soma whenever they experience feelings or encounter problems they were not conditioned to deal with. By getting rid of all diseases and negative human emotions, the World Controllers also rid its residents of many of the human connections, pleasures and passions in life. They believe they’re happy all the time, but is there really pleasure without pain?

Huxley did not construct a totally unrealistic dystopia. He takes the most gruesome aspects of our society, exaggerates them and creates the World State. After finishing the book, I am left with perplexing questions rather than definite conclusions. Stability and equality clearly depend on an unequal distribution of labor and intelligence, “even Epsilons perform indispensable services;” doesn’t that go directly against our democratic ideal that all men are created equal? After all, the dissident Bernard Marx and the philosopher Karl Marx don’t happen to have the same last name for no reason.

Reviewed by Nghi ’18

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

rayRay Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 tells the story of a middle age man in a 24th century dystopian society. The main protagonist, Guy Montag, is first found working as a firefighter, burning the illegally owned books as well as their owner’s houses, where he seems to glorify his profession in the flames of destruction until he meets seventeen year old girl called Clarisse McClellan. He finds her optimistic and unusual way of thinking intriguing and she comments that his attention to her is different from how other people view her. From then on, they meet regularly and have various conversations about society and the past, which make Guy question the rules of society and why they are afraid of letting certain books be exposed to the public.

In order to find out what the authorities want gone, Guy begins to steal books from the houses he is sent to burn. He later meets a man called, Faber a retired professor, who discusses with Guy the importance of sharing ideas through books. However, his wife discovers the stash of books along with her husband’s unusual behavior, resulting in their house being burned down after she reports to the other firefighters. Guy decides to flee to Faber with his scavenged books that he hid in his backyard in hopes of creating more copies of books and sharing them with society at a safer time.

Reviewed by Intisar K ’18