book reviews by Althea

The Boy on the Bridge – M.R. Carey ****

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I saw there was a new MR Carey book coming out and requested it from my library without reading anything at all about it. So I was delighted to find out when it arrived that it’s a direct companion to “The Girl With All The Gifts.”

In this post-apocalyptic future, humans are losing ground against the “Hungries.” Fortified pockets of uninfected humans are falling to the zombie plague. In a last-ditch, desperate effort to find a cure – or any strand of hope to cling to – a mission has been sent out: an armored vehicle, containing the best remaining scientists, and a contingent of muscle to guard and protect the brains.

However, as so often happens in this kind of scenario, humans can be their own worst enemies, even in the face of a dire external threat.

Back at home base, politics and plots may be the downfall of the only safe haven they have to return to. And even aboard the “Rosie” (the armored tank/mobile lab) the mission is split into two groups that fail to respect each others’ strengths.

One of the bones of contention is Stephen Greaves – the ‘boy’ of the title. He’s part of the mission at Dr. Samrina Khan’s insistence. As the only epidemiologist they’ve got, her wishes have got some weight behind them. But no one else really believes that Stephen is a genius who invented the beta-blocker lotion that allows them to ‘hide’ from the Hungries. From his behavior, he comes across as closer to retarded than to brilliant. As readers, privileged to be given insight into Stephen’s perspective, we realize that a scientific breakthrough by the boy is probably humanity’s only hope. But will his teammates recognize his value before it’s too late?

While I really liked the book, I also thought that Stephen – the main character – was unfortunately the story’s main weakness. It’s really, really hard to pull off an “autistic genius” character, and rather than feeling like an accurate glimpse into the mind of a brilliant but neuroatypical individual, it ended up kind of feeling like Stephen was “magic” – more of a pending deus-ex-machina than a real person.

That said, the book is wonderfully written, with plenty of tension, thought-provoking content, a good mix of cynicism and hope – and some great surprises along the way.

Fans of ‘The Girl Will All the Gifts’ may enjoy the parallels between the two stories.


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