I believe I found out about this book through a recommendation by Mira Grant in a video she did talking about her book Parasite, and I don’t regret following her advice. This was a great book, and an example of taking a very well known ‘story-type’ (zombies) and putting a twist on it, and doing it well.The main idea of the story is that there has been an apocalyptic event, where most of the world has been turned into zombies due to Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which is a real fungus (I contemplated putting a picture up but thought it was too gruesome), invades insects (ants mainly) and changes their behaviour by invading their brain. It makes them go under a leaf, and kills the ant, so it can then grow, and then disperse. The ‘fruiting’ part of the fungus grows out through the ants head. And this is exactly what it does to the humans in this story. I do love it when there’s a kernel of truth in the stories.
We find ourselves on a base, near London (which has been deserted), but not that near, where they are studying the zombies. Not just any zombies, specific anomalies within the zombie population, these ones are sentient. They are able to walk around, have full motor function, can listen, can speak, and were well on their way to doing calculus. All the other zombies, they’re dumb, they stand still, or they chase after a meal. Don’t be fooled though, these special zombies will eat you if given the chance. At this base they’re doing an interesting experiment, they’re keeping these special zombies (who are children) and they’ve put them in school.
So that’s what we start with, a school for zombies (already sounds wonderful doesn’t it). It gets better, WE GET A ZOMBIE PERSPECTIVE. The ‘brightest’ zombie, Melanie, is our POV for a while, but this changes between a few characters. But it’s very exciting to have this unique perspective.
A lot of stuff happens, but ultimately Melanie, as well as the scientist, a teacher, and two soldiers end up leaving the base together. Which brings up a lot of dilemmas. Melanie is now starting to realise her own condition, and coming to terms with that is fascinating. Then there is the fact that Melanie still has her urges to eat them all, only prevented by the use of e-blocker. But they have a limited supply, and it begins to run out. Then they have to contend with not just the other ‘wild’ ‘hungries’, but also those people who have spent their time since the downfall off the grid, and not at ‘Beacon’.
What I just really loved was the ending, so MAJOR spoilers coming up. I think it was just perfect, it didn’t shy away from the reality of the situation, but it was still somewhat uplifting.
The group end up finding ‘Rosie’ which was an armoured vehicle-lab sent out years ago to try and study the fungus and hungries, with all the best scientists and people on board. It was never heard from again, and they find it empty, bar one dead driver. They manage to get inside it, and it’s great news, apart from the fact that there’s no food, and no power. Plus there’s still no e-blocker, so Melanie is getting restless, so doesn’t stay with them. It’s then, that she finds some other special zombies, which makes her concerned. Not for her, for Miss Justineau (who she is very attached to), and the special zombies (who Dr Caldwell would love to chop up).
Unfortunately everything goes wrong, and Dr Caldwell, alone in Rosie, works to try and trap Melanie and dissect her and use the sophisticated tools onboard. But, she is first approached by the other zombies, and tries to take advantage of that and capture one of them. She succeeds, only after being able to drive off, and she is then able to find out some shocking evidence. Not before noticing that in front of her, in London, is a huge concentration of fruiting zombies, which have coalesced into a massive structure. Meanwhile the others get trapped by the others zombies, and ultimately Parks is killed, and Justineau only survives because of him and Melanie. Dr Caldwell reveals everything to Melanie, before dying of blood poisoning from her earlier injuries. And what Melanie learns is that the these fruiting zombies need a spark, to cause a release of their seeds, and so she decides to set them on fire, and then infect the world. And that’s nearly how it ends, the world is now going to be infected. But, we have Justineau, who survives, and guess what, she’s going to be their (all the sentient zombies who are just the zombie offspring) teacher.