As this is a prequel to The Girl with All the Gifts, I don’t want to say much about the story that might give away spoilers from either book. Scaled back to the bare bones, this book details the journey of the Rosalind Franklin and her crew in a world that is only ten years into the new world. If you haven’t read either book and that sentence makes no sense, I highly recommend reading the first book and/or hopping back to my review of it (see link above) to get a better sense sans spoilers.
The Girl with All the Gifts was one of my favorite reads of 2016. I didn’t know a prequel existed until last month, at which point I grabbed it on Audible. Notably, while I call this a prequel and it does take place in a time period before the first book, the story seems to operate on the assumption that the reader has already read the previous book and is familiar with this world. I’m not sure how it would read as a standalone or first book since I didn’t come in from that perspective, but I’d recommend starting with TGwAtG.
Setting that aside, I was unsure (despite my impulse grab) that I would enjoy the book, for two reasons. First, I tried another book by Carey last year and while it was interesting and well-written, it was so explicitly gruesome that I had to quit reading. Second, I saw a lot of reviews complaining that this book was nothing but a rehash of TGwAtG, nothing new, nothing to add, and unlikable characters. I’m happy to report that both of my concerns were pointless, as it was never too gruesome and definitely in no way a rehash of the original. This was an excellent book that broadened my understanding of an interesting world, brought up a lot of fraught ethical dilemmas, introduced many nuanced characters, and closed off with an epilogue that rounded off both books beautifully.
Honestly, there’s not much more I can say here without giving away plot points for either book. I can just say that if you had any questions left at the end of TGwAtG, this book should eventually round them out for you, and if the hopelessness of its ending chilled you, you might enjoy the threads of hope that go into this book. Additionally, if you’re an audiobook junkie like I am, Finty Williams does another spectacular job with this book, particularly the way she handled the stilted and oddly-shaped narration of a fifteen-year-old autistic savant on board the Rosalind Franklin. I highly recommend both book and audiobook.