Review of PAPERBACK The Boy on the Bridge – Book 2 of The Girl With All the Gifts series by M.R. Carey – #Brainfluffbookreview #TheBoyontheBridgebookreview


I was blown away by The Girl With All the Gifts – indeed it was one of my Outstanding Books of 2015. Would I enjoy this one as much?

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.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading The Girl With All the Gifts and yet you’ve picked this offering up, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to read The Girl With All the Gifts to appreciate The Boy on the Bridge because in reality, the only real connection between them is that they are set in the same world, where a fungal plague has infected humanity, turning the majority of the population into zombies, or hungries, as they are called. The last enclave in the south of England mounts a scientific expedition to retrieve stored specimens that have been cached throughout the length of the country right up into Scotland, using a formidably armoured motorised vehicle – part-tank, part-laboratory – which will take best part of the year. The small elite scientific team is led by Dr Fournier, while the military detail assigned to keep them safe is commanded by Captain Carlisle. These two men loathe and distrust one another and their mutual hostility isn’t helping the success of this vital mission.

The story unfolds in multiple viewpoint, with the two main protagonists being Rina, a young, brilliant scientist who several years ago discovered a traumatised boy and took him under her wing, and Stephen Greaves, now a teenager on the autistic spectrum. One of the reasons why this mission is even possible is due to an invention of Greaves, the e-blocker that stops the hungries being able to smell humans. They are all looking for a mutated strain of the fungal plague which would allow them to find an antidote. This is the story of that mission.

I’ll be honest, I had to take two goes at this book. This genre isn’t my go-to choice if I’m not at my shiny best and right now I’m definitely not at my shiny best. There was a cascade of events that quickly snowballed into something dark and apparently unavoidable, and the very quality of the writing and the harsh reality of Carey’s excellent scene setting only managed to make the whole situation even grimmer. I had toyed with the idea of not finishing this one – not because it wasn’t brilliantly written, but simply because the situation seemed poignantly, desperately sad.

In the event, I’m glad that I got over myself and completed it, because that epilogue was a real jaw-dropper. Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t that. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as The Girl With All the Gifts, chiefly because no one snagged my sympathy in the way that poor little Melanie did. While I very much liked Stephen, there were too many times when I also found his reasoning too alien. I shan’t be forgetting this story, this world and the outcome for a very long time. Carey writes with power and an unflinching ability to dig into our vulnerabilities and make us really think about what it is to be human. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys apocalyptic adventures.

29 responses »

  1. Excellent review matey! I am glad that ye finished this one. I did very much enjoy it but also feel that the first book was better in general in terms of me attachments to the characters. I very much enjoy the author’s work and will be interested to see what else he writes. Arrrr!
    x The Captain

    • Oh yes – he’s a fine writer with a huge talent and the worldbuilding, in particular, was amazingly good in that he didn’t break off at any time to give longwinded descriptions, but sleeved the scene-setting within the action.

  2. Glad you enjoyed this! I think I loved this just as much as The Girl… or maybe a little more. It was so different, and I’m glad he didn’t repeat himself. He’s one of my favorite authors and I’ve read everything he’s written and loved them all!

    • I can see why you’d love this one even more. To be honest, I think my own depression hampered my enjoyment of this one – though I tried as far as possible to be fair about it…

  3. You’re right, this is the kind of book that requires the right mind disposition, because it’s not an easy story and those who have read the first book already know there is very little hope on the horizon, which is not the best kind of feeling one must deal with.
    Still, the writing is so powerful that the effort required to go through with it is indeed worth the journey.

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      • I don’t believe you “sold the book short”, as you say, but rather reviewed it through the filter of your own tastes and your mood at the moment in which you read it – which is what we all do when writing about books, after all… 🙂

  4. I read and liked The Girl with all the Gifts and have had this on my kindle for quite a while, but have not taken the plunge yet. I am glad to read this review and maybe I will get to it. I am looking at a challenge for 2019 where this would fit nicely, so maybe sometime next year, I will get to it.

  5. I really would struggle to decide between the two I think. I particularly loved the ending of this one and the way it all tied together. It had I am Legend vibes for me which just blew me away.
    Lynn 😀

  6. I’ve not read either of these books but you have me curious now, especially about The Girl with All the Gifts. I do like apocalyptic adventures but, at the same time, agree that I have to be in a certain frame of mind to really appreciate them without being dragged them by them.

    • Yes… his writing style isn’t for everyone. And to be honest – if you didn’t like Girl With All the Gifts, then this one probably isn’t for you. But I would also suggest that because of the pervading mood that bounces so strongly off the page, if you ensure you’re feeling at your shiny best, then have another go at GWATG, you might find this time around it sticks.

  7. I love this series and this world! I also loved the bleak outlook this book had from the start (with what we know from the first book, and how this won’t be a happy ending)… but then I thrive on the more downbeat, dark and depressing stories :\

  8. Hmm. I’m not sure I’d dig reading this, BUT I could see premise working really well in a cult film. So…I guess I’m saying I still think this sounds like a fun story? Let’s say that. 🙂

  9. I didn’t know that this book came out. I also loved The Girl with All the Gifts and especially appreciated its bittersweet ending, but it seems this book is grimmer and less entertaining. I’m curious, but if it made you consider stopping reading… I guess I might pass.

    • Yes, but do be aware that I was in a bit of a tough place when I was reading it and that did impact on my reaction. I did try to make that clear, and if you enjoyed the first one, then I do think you should give this one a go – it has certainly stayed with me, vividly…

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