August 2018 Club

The Girl With all the Gifts – M.R. Carey 

Melanie is not a typical 10-year-old girl. She has an amazing intellect but spends her days in a cell in a concrete bunker. Military personnel strap her into a wheelchair and push her into a classroom for lessons on week days. She adores one of her teachers, Miss Justineau, and lives for the days when she teaches.

But when a couple of her classmates are taken out of the bunker never to return, she wonders if this sheltered world is all it seems to be. What she doesn’t know, but the reader is gradually made aware of, is that the outside world has been taken over by a fungal outbreak which has turned people into a type of zombie called “hungries”. I never in a million years thought I’d read a zombie book! But this is different – it’s more about survival against the odds. There are other dangers too – “junkers” are savage gangs of humans who refused to join the mass exodus and survive by scavenging and using violence. Outside the bunker is a dangerous place to be.

Dr Caldwell is a scientist on the base who is determined at any cost to find a cure for the fungal infection. The children at the base seem to retain an immunity despite being hosts for the fungus. She, like most of the other personnel on the base, doesn’t view the children as human and in fact, performs experiments on them without anaesthetic. The scientific detail described is fascinating as she pieces the facts together, although she is the very epitome of the evil scientist with jars of body parts on her lab shelves and often clashes with Helen Justineau.

This post-apocalyptic thriller explores what happens when the characters are thrust together in an escape attempt. Which of them will survive? And almost more importantly, which of them will retain their humanity. Is it more important to retain humanity in the face of adversity or find a scientific cure which could save humanity, whatever the cost? I guess this the fundamental philosophical question at the heart of the novel.

Colourway inspiration

I’m not sure the semi-solid colourway could be anything other than the grey of the Ophiocordyceps fungus. I imagined it as not a fresh blue-grey, but as a mushroom brown-grey, but who wants to knit with fungus! So I made it as pretty as possible on mohair/silk to emulate the wall that the characters encounter towards the end of the book described as “grey froth”. It’s called Pod Bloom.

For the variegated colourway, it had to be Pandora’s Box. The parallels between Melanie and Pandora are touched on during the novel as well as in the book title and the moment Melanie emerges from the bunker into the world is the moment of Pandora’s Box opening. I diluted down the grey and added a dark red-plum, a hot pink, a mustard yellow and a moss green to represent the flowers and buds introduced by Miss Justineau to the children. The contrast between the grey and the colours represents the concrete of the bunker with the spring flowers.

The yarn type is an unusual, luxurious choice but represented the bloom of fungi so perfectly that it couldn’t really be anything else. The mohair/silk of Floof works beautifully on its own or held together with a strand of another yarn to give a hazy look. My favourite way of using it is held together with a strand of a single ply yarn, such as Wriggle or Selkino.