Melanie is an intelligent little girl who loves books, has friends and goes to school. Why is she kept in a cell and transported to her classroom at gunpoint? Why is she muzzled occasionally, and chained to her desk? Why is Melanie, together with about twenty other children, kept underground in a remote military base in England?
We learn that twenty years ago humanity was infected by a variant of a fungus called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. Those infected lose their mental powers and feed on the flesh of healthy humans. The disease is spread through blood and saliva but also can be spread through fungal spores. The infected are known as ‘hungries’. There are a few surviving uninfected humans who either live in heavily guarded areas or roam, scavenging, in packs. The scavengers are known as ‘junkers’.
Okay, so we are in a world of post-apocalyptic zombies. Usually I’d read this far and stop. Reading about zombies rarely holds my interest. But this book did. Why?
The remote military base was set up to study a specific group of child ‘hungries’. These children retain their mental powers and only lose control when they are very close to human scent. Could these children contain a key to a possible cure?
I kept reading. Soldiers search for these particular children and taken to the base. The children are educated and tested, treated as laboratory rats in the quest for a cure. Ten-year-old Melanie is special because of her intelligence.
We also see some of this world through the eyes of Helen Justineau, a behavioural psychologist and teacher at the base. Helen Justineau sees the children as people, which is very different from the view held by Dr Caroline Caldwell, the base’s head scientist.
I found it difficult to put this book down. The four main characters (Helen Justineau, Caroline Caldwell, Sergeant Eddie Parks and Melanie) each have roles and viewpoints which make this world more realistic than I would have thought possible. It’s disturbingly easy to envisage a fungal infection spreading throughout the world. It’s worth reflecting on the issues and ethics involved when scientists are searching for a cure.
How will it end?
- Library Binding: 448 pages
- Publisher: Turtleback; Bound for Schools & Libraries ed. edition (28 April 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0606369260
- ISBN-13: 978-0606369268
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.8 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 458 g
- Customer Reviews: 3,501 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 376,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)