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From School Library Journal
About the Author
- ASIN : B01LL8BX9Q
- Publisher : Orbit (May 2, 2017)
- Publication date : May 2, 2017
- Language : English
- File size : 1712 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 395 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #141,534 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The Boy on the Bridge is a prequel and slight sequel to The Girl with All the Gifts. Melanie and her crew stumble onto Rosie in the latter book and it's nice to fill in what happened and then tie the two stories together. This book is just as addictive as the first with just as varied characters. Stephen had an extremely traumatic chidhood where his parents were killed by hungries and their corpses protected him from discovery. As an older child, he has odd behaviors such as avoiding eye contact and physical contact with other people. He views things analytically and keeps his emotions separate. With his brilliance, photographic memory, and scientific curiosity, Stephen developed the e-blocker that masks human scent from hungries. Stephen seems to be somewhere on the autism sprectrum, but it's never explicitly stated. I felt for him because of how easily the rest of the crew dismisses him. However, he made some pretty terrible decisions that put everyone at risk.
The rest of the crew is a hodgepodge of people who don't get along. Colonel Carlisle is in command and makes confident decisions with little input from anyone else. His past is full of mistakes like firebombing civilians at the beginning of the outbreak and everyone at least internally calls his command into question. Lieutenant McQueen is a hot headed soldier who follows orders only to the letter with a big dose of disdain if he thinks he knows better. The civilian leader Dr. Fournier undermines the entire operation with secret communication to Beacon, their base, and orders to delay so a coup won't be interrupted. He's completely willing to even sacrifice lives to garner a little bit of favor from a general. Of course he doesn't get along with any of the military as they exclude him in any decision making and in general. These tensions explode (mostly because of big egos) during the course of the story and make situations even worse.
There are two types of hungries here. The first is the mindless type that go into stasis with no stimuli. Sound, smell, movement, and body heat make them return to consciousness and attack whatever caught their attention. As heliotropes, they face the sun in their stasis and move with it. At night, movement and smell of nocturnal animals keep them active. Extreme temperatures have little effect on them and only destroying the brain will kill them. Two theories seem to be plausible about the people they used to be; either they are trapped inside the mind without the ability to control their body or they simply lose all sense of self. These types of hungries almost seem alien after the more intelligent type seen in both this novel and its predecessor. The second iteration of them can communicate, use tools, reason, and organize in groups. Physically, their bodies are the same as the normal ones and their brains are completely different as shown with Stephen's experiments. The fungus was introduced to their bodies before they are developed, thus retaining about half of the brain chemicals and function. These being between hungry and human are fascinating and it seems that they are still a mystery even though more is explained about their state.
The Boy on the Bridge isn't quite as good as The Girl with All the Gifts, but it's close. The latter has a much bigger scope because its events affected all of humanity. This former is on a smaller scale, but gave a better look at the past. The characters were pretty frustrating all around and I didn't connect to them as well. The writing is wonderful as usual and I was engaged for the entire story. The interesting mix of human drama, zombies, and science drew me in. I would love another book to come out as a full sequel to The Girl with All the Gifts.
Part of a group of scientists and army personnel slowly traveling across Britain in a tanked-out RV, Rina and Stephen are collecting data on the hungries with the hopes of discovering the key to a vaccine for the fungal virus. It’s an understandably contentious lot with the expectant dynamics found in any group trapped in a tin can with treads battling hungries for seven months. Almost all carry secrets, some easier to hide in their RV lovingly called Rosie. I didn’t recognize Rosie from TGWATG until the very end.
At first the book moves about as fast as Rosie with her tank treads but it helps to build the tension. No one trusts the scientist heading the mission, the army resents his leadership, and no one but Rina understands Stephen and his purpose within their group. They regard him as weird; his expressionless interaction with them, what little there is, prompts them to call him the Robot. He prefers to spend his time in the lab or the airlock away from everyone. And he only allows Rina to touch him but it is a light finger to his wrist and nothing more.
But, focusing only on Stephen for a moment, the reader begins to wonder what makes a person a human. It’s hard to go into detail because I don’t want to give anything away, but his discoveries and his personality lead the readers into nature vs. nurture territory and questions about the fungus and why does it make humans into zombies.
Carey has done his research in science, epidemiology, even how to fix a tank tread, and it shows. A few of the characters, both scientist and army personnel alike, don’t go much deeper than who’s the mechanic, who likes to play poker, who is a good shot, etc. Rina and Stephen are the main characters. Stephen is no Melanie from TGWATG; her wonderfully sweet personality and reactions to the outside world made her so compelling. Stephen is a computer, a robot, but I understood him and he does make this book.
Without giving away too much, TBOTB does intersect with TGWATG at some point. And I loved the ending of this book as well, it made me tear up a tad. There is one character that disappears and we never know what happens to them, even by the end. Possibly a third book? The Boy On The Bridge may not engage as many readers as TGWATG but it is still a good read and could be a standalone but I don’t recommend it. You’ll want the full experience.
Top reviews from other countries
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.
I was fortunate enough to watch 'The girl with all the gifts' during the Sci Fi Film festival in London and 'participate' in a Q & A with the writer and Director. I loved his first film but never read the book but was suitably impressed by both him and his film to pre-order a copy of this book (something I have never done before!). What can I say? This book is absolutely compelling and has an originality to it that is hard to find these days especially when writing within a genre that is so saturated with books, comics and films. I love the unashamed way Carey uses quite technical language to describe the function of say a gun or terminology from neuroscience which describe quite complex concepts to do with brain function and subsequent motor function. The book is a kind of prequel and is set before the events in the film take place but, as other reviewers have said, this is still a stand alone title. I am so impressed and inspired by this writer and of course hope he enjoys continued success in film but he must never stop writing - he is a genius!
That being said, I did enjoy most of the characters, especially Steven, who I thought was well drawn - although I too wondered why he managed to go wandering off so often and nobody noticed. I thought the novel zipped along at a good pace and I was desperate to know exactly how it ended, even though, since I had read TGWATG, I did sort of know. I would have given it four stars anyway, because, in the end, it was decent story that entertained me.
But then, there was the ending, and I was utterly undone. Melanie appeared again and she is just such a lovely little character, my heart melted and that last star slipped out without any effort at all. She's so decent and kind, without being saccharine-sweet, and there are far too few characters in novels that one can say the same of. Worth five stars alne just for her on the last 20 pages.
I have a huge soft spot for motley crews in untenable situations, especially when they have deep divisions to overcome. While Boy won’t win awards for original characters (they’re all well-worn archetypes, including the eponymous boy), Carey imbues them with a respectable sort of humanity – even when I didn’t like them, I believed in them – and could be surprised by them. As they trundle around the UK in search of a cure, the novel is often tense, sometimes harrowing and arguably entirely by the numbers – but as with Girl it transcends its tropes and stereotypes to work on its own terms.
About the story, it has interesting parts and good ideas, but overall is very predictable. Also, there are a lot of parts that I found too convenient or questionable. The epilogue was well done and very nice, relating the first and second book together.
But my biggest problem is the characters, I found them typical and stereotyped. As on the first book, there is a sort of hatred towards the different child (but this time instead of a different child-hungry is an autistic boy). But what made me struggled the most is their decisions, almost all of them stupid or questionable in a post-apocalyptic situation. Therefore, many of the plot twists and problems that they faced in the story come from those mistakes or questionable decisions, so you see them coming from miles away. And I can understand that they could do some of the mistakes/bad decisions but there are too many for my liking, especially those related to the autistic child.
[MILD SPOILER AHEAD, BE WARNED] But seriously, he doesn't have any kind of supervision while they are in an expedition in a city full of zombies-hungries, although he has escaped several times (I find it unthinkable), and just because they don't like him (only the motherly figure cares about him). Also, they don't question him at all when it matters (how convenient). Finally related to this, towards the end, he makes a decision that I found completely pointless. [MILD SPOILER FINISHED]
All this would have never happened if they were really in a post-apocalyptic world in an expedition to find something to fight a virus.
Overall, I didn't care about the characters and the problems didn't let me enjoy the book, so I rate it 2.5 stars, rounded to 3 because it has good ideas and the writing was well done. I read a physical copy while listening to the audiobook (very good performance in the audiobook, I recommend it).