Synopsis: 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.
Corey: So it’s safe to say that the excitement levels for The Boy on the Bridge were incredibly high! Obviously, we’re both huge fans of The Girl With All The Gifts, and this being M.R. Carey’s return to that world, I know we were both anxious to jump into it. And while I don’t think there was ever a chance that this book would meet or surpass those expectations, I really enjoyed it. For me, The Girl With All The Gifts is a top-five books of all-time, easy. I think that one of the biggest positives in The Boy on the Bridge is that it quite nicely opens up this world for more stories in the future, something I really hope we see. M.R. Carey is a very gifted storyteller, that’s for sure. There was just no way to ever top the soul-crushing beauty of The Girl With All The Gifts, and the Melanie-Miss Justineau relationship.
Holly: The Girl With All the Gifts was such an emotionally taxing, exciting, brutal & beautiful book. No question, it is a Grimdragon favorite!
So to say we were pumped for The Boy on the Bridge is an understatement!
I think it’s fair to compare this with The Girl With All the Gifts since they are set within the same world. But for sure, they are their own entities at the same time. In saying that, this is not The Girl With All the Gifts. And that’s okay. It was still a wonderfully told story. And *slight spoiler* there is even an appearance or two from characters we already know!
Corey: Yeah, the callbacks to The Girl With All The Gifts were really cool, almost like Easter eggs scattered about. It’s also a bit similar plot-wise, too. With Stephen Greaves as the titular Boy, a hyper-intelligent, gifted, and withdrawn 15-year-old, and his relationship with Dr. Samrina Khan taking center stage in the story. I guess if I had any criticism here it would be the amount of supporting characters almost took away from the relationship between Greaves and Khan. I think some of the minor characters are really compelling, but some kind of fell through the cracks for me. Like they took away from the characters I wanted to spend more time with, without really being fleshed out enough for me to care that much about them.
Holly: Exactly. There were a few too many secondary characters floating in & out. Oftentimes they felt like mirrors of each other, there weren’t necessarily enough unique characteristics to distinguish them from the next.
Probably my favorite aspect of the novel was how Carey engaged the reader during the research expedition. They were on an assignment to look for the inhibitor that could make people resistant to the fungus, which infects human brains & turns them into “hungries.” It was really interesting to see how it all came to be, from this point of view. Putting all the puzzle pieces together that were provided in The Girl With All the Gifts to form this highly plausible post-apocalyptic world.
Corey: Yeah, absolutely. It goes a long way towards deepening the mythology of the hungry plague (Can I just pause and say that “hungries” is the most delightful name for zombies in the history of the zombie genre). There’s a tremendous amount of both scientific and militaristic elements to the story. I think both of these elements are balanced really nicely with the more tender human moments we’ve come to expect from Carey.
Holly: Hungries truly is the most perfect name for zombified zombies! WHY HAS NO ONE THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE?!?
And can we talk about Rosie for a second? How rad was she? Rosalind Franklin is the armoured motorhome that carries the crew of twelve along their journey. Carey is such a brilliant writer, envoking an emotional connection to this vehicle.. this home for these characters. Much like the Millennium Falcon or Serenity, it becomes more than just a scrap of metal. It is an integral part of the story, a character in it’s own right.
Corey: That’s a good point! It’s their armored & claustrophobic sanctuary. But yeah, Rosie is a huge part of the story, and represents safety, and hope in a lot of ways.
Holly: This was a fantastic companion to The Girl With All the Gifts. You don’t have to read either one to enjoy the other, but that is crazy talk! Why not read both?! They are wonderfully written with fascinating storylines & give the reader something unique within a genre that has been done to.. well, death!
The Girl With All the Gifts is hard to top. It blew the typical zombie story apart. This is not quite at that level. But it’s still a beautifully told story. The major elements that we loved within TGWAtG are all here. Carey makes it so that the same story does not get recycled, instead a brand new one is presented to us that weaves in & out of the world we came to know in TGWAtG. It is then driven to a climactic end. Or is it?
Corey: I sure hope we’re not done with this world. I really think the bones are there for another book…or more! Carey really is such a solid writer. He has a very direct, almost compact style. Nothing gets wasted. And for the most part, he really draws the reader in with the more human elements. I definitely felt pulled into this world, and to that end, there are some heartbreaking moments, and some genuinely surprising ones. And like in The Girl With All The Gifts, it’s not just one thing: there’s horror, quite a bit of action, some coming-of-age elements, all thrown into this road novel. It moves well, too. The story slows down when it needs to, but just compels you to keep turning pages.
Holly: Most definitely! Reading these two books gives such a rich impression of the world that Carey has manifested. There is certainly more material that can be found here for him to expand upon because he has done such a great job of making this world come alive. And because of that, we will continue to jump at the chance to learn more about this epidemic & the characters that find themselves caught in the midst of it all!
The Grimdragons Rating: 4 Stars!
(Thank you to Orbit Books for providing us with a copy before the release date, in exchange for an honest review!)