The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Wow, Carey has done it again. The Boy on the Bridge is incredibly clever with some wonderfully complex characters and an ending that will leave your jaw on the floor.
Warning: There may be some spoilers for The Girl with All the Gifts, so go read it before reading this review (or watch the movie). It’s really good.
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.
The Girl with all the Gifts turned out to be an unexpectedly brilliant read and while I had high hopes for sequel/prequel The Boy on the Bridge I will confess I also had some doubts. Did we really need another book, could it ever be as good? The answers to both of those questions is a very definite YES!!!
This has all of the elements that made The Girl with all the Gifts so wonderful (and is fairly similar in terms of plot) but, if like me the first book left you with a lot of questions, this is the story with the answers… well some of them.
It’s very much a character driven story as it follows a team of scientists and their military escort as they set out on an expedition in an armored lab on wheels (with a very familiar name) to try and find something that will help them fight the infection that has destroyed the world. This is a long trip with not a lot of personal space for the crew so as you may expect tensions rise. Add to that the split between the civilian scientists and the military, different beliefs and a mixture of personalities and there is almost more conflict amongst themselves than with the hungries.
The story is told from the point of view of the various members of the team giving different perspectives on the same events but also giving a real insight into the reasons for their actions. In the beginning I did struggle to remember who was who (my feeble brain struggles with lots of names even with the handily provided list) but I soon came to recognize each of the individual voices.
Some characters and personalities do feel a little familiar but the youngest member of the team Stephen Greaves is truly unique and absolutely fascinating to read. His brain doesn’t work the way everyone else’s does making him a bit of an outcast from the others and the one who’s either going to save everyone or get them all killed. He could be a genius or he could just be a very troubled and traumatized child and he’s ostracized by almost all of the crew who view him as the latter.
Unsurprisingly given the mission of the team and the number of scientists there is a lot more science in this story. It’s incredibly detailed and well thought out, explaining how the infection began and it’s effects on the host but I have to confess it became a little too heavy for me at times and lost me. It is interesting to learn more about the hungries and their behavior, and I’m sure those more knowledgeable about biology and chemistry will find it fascinating, but it was a little too much for me and I may have skimmed a little.
Even with this focus on the science and the characters, there is enough action to keep the story moving forward and the reader on their toes. There are moments of extreme violence (some which made me squirm), they’re generally sudden, unexpected and over quickly but have a lot of impact. There are all of the best zombie story tropes and it raises those intriguing ethical dilemmas around sacrificing for the greater good and following orders which will leave you pondering whether the characters actions are right or wrong and just what you would do in that situation.
I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a fast paced story, it’s a little slow in places but there is a gradual build in tension throughout and the ending when it comes is absolutely jaw dropping. Those characters who I wasn’t too fussed about had somehow snuck their way in and I was truly invested in what happened to them and without spoilers, it was horrifying, heartbreaking and absolutely wonderful. And, I kinda want more….
Overall, this is an incredibly well written and intelligent story with a focus very much on the characters. It’s a little heavier on the science than I would like but the ending more than makes up for any quibbles I may have had along the way. If you read and enjoyed The Girl with all the Gifts I’d really recommend you read this.
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read this.