My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Much more than a zombie story, M.R. Carey’s The Boy on the Bridge blends science fiction and horror themes into a legit work of character-driven contemporary literature with insightful things to say about the human condition. The characters are complex and the dramatic tension builds throughout.
The Boy on the Bridge is set in the same universe as Carey’s first novel, The Girl With All the Gifts, which I enjoyed very much four years ago but remember few specific plot details. You can read either of these books without spoiling the other.
During the height of the Hungry Plague (aka zombie apocalypse), a small team of soldiers and scientists are dispatched to traverse the withered United Kingdom countryside to collect scientific samples that might help understand the plague and how to defend against it. The team is confined to the safety of Rosie, their oversized land rover, with occasional tension-laden excursions into the open. Discovery of a new kind of hungry presents the core scientific mystery and a Pandora’s box of moral dilemmas. Conflicting ideas about duty and loyalty drive the crew to make complicated decisions that bring the reader toward a devastating but thoroughly satisfying end.
Boy on the Bridge presents a slow start. It took me a few chapters to figure out where we were and what was happening but the action layers nicely to build a claustrophobic sense of dread and inescapability.
Boy on the Bridge is a dystopian novel with a hopeful heart. If you can enjoy reading about the collapse of civilization and the possibilities that might come after, this book will make you very happy. After, of course, it has already broken your heart.