This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.
I'd read two novels by this author prior to starting this one, and he was batting a .500. I really liked The Girl With All The Gifts which I reviewed back in May of 2014, but I really didn't like Fellside which I reviewed in November of 2016. This one, I'm afraid, fell on the same side and delivered no gifts despite evidently being the second volume in The Girl With All The Gifts series. This is why I don't like series, generally speaking. Instead of plowing a new furrow, a series typically sticks in the same rut that's already been plowed.
I think writers choose this fallow ground because it's easy to navigate - just write between the lines! It's a lot simpler and less work to warm-over existing characters than to set forth against a sea of plots and by embracing, write them. I certainly wasn't expecting a zombie apocalypse novel and if I had been, I wouldn't have requested to review this. Zombie apocalypse stories are low-hanging fruit appealing to the lowest common denominator and they make absolutely no sense whatsoever. The blurb, which writers admittedly tend to have little to do with unless they self-publish, delivered nothing on the topic: "Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy. The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world. To where the monsters lived." That doesn't say zombie apocalypse to me! It really doesn't say much at all.
The author never actually uses the word 'zombie'; instead, he calls them 'hungries', which is a cheat, because the name wasn't natural. Even people who can't stand zombie stories, such as me, for example, are familiar with the basis of them, and if this really did happen as it's told here, no one would ever call these things 'hungries'. They would call them zombies. Or flesh-eaters, or cannibals, or something more commonly known. 'Hungries' simply isn't a natural word that would have come into common use, so suspension of disbelief was challenged early and lost quickly.
Even so I might have got into it had the story not been so slow and pedantic, and made so little sense. Despite it being an apocalyptic story of disease run rampant through the population, largely turning it into mindless flesh-eating 'monsters', it was far too plodding and it failed to convey any sense of adventure or danger, or even offer any thrills. The main character was flat and uninteresting and the story plodded painfully and simply did not draw me in at all. The 'science' they were supposedly doing made no sense.
It began with a handful of scientists and a handful of soldiers on an expedition in the zombie wilds, picking up test materials that had been left out there by a previous expedition. The method of making this journey - in a vehicle rather than a helicopter - made no sense either and was apparently designed merely to put these people into conflict with the zombies. What the hell this trip was even supposed to do wasn't really ever made clear, and whatever it was quickly became lost anyway in the endless detailing of people's activities and mindsets including the tediously irritating politics between members of the expedition. The painful, story-halting sorties into each character's psyche was totally uninteresting and did nothing to move the story along. It was like the author was much more interested in holding the reader's hand and spelling everything out instead of relating the kind of story where we would see what was going on without having to be told, and want to read more.
This was yet another apocalyptic story which took place in complete isolation from the rest of the world. When Americans write these stories, only America matters. The rest of the world not only doesn't matter, it also doesn't exist. It's the same thing in this story except that this writer is British, so only Britain exists - this septic isle, the only nation on planet Earth - which again destroyed suspension of disbelief.
I had thought this was a new or relatively new novel, so imagine my surprise when I saw this in audiobook form on the shelf of the library! I picked that version so I could listen to it instead of reading it, and the voice of the reader, Finty Williams (aka Tara Cressida Frances Williams!), made the story almost bearable, but in the end, even her determined and earnest reading couldn't hold my interest, so I DNF'd this novel. Life is too short to have to read books like this one, and I cannot recommend it. It's nowhere near the standard of The Girl With All The Gifts.