Andrew Smith's Reviews > The Boy on the Bridge

The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey
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Jul 10, 2017

it was ok
bookshelves: apocalypse, science-fiction

I really enjoyed The Girl with All the Gifts, I thought it a well thought out and credible ‘end of the world’ yarn. Moreover, it was written in such a way that (if you weren't already aware what it was) the true nature of the story crept up on the reader; at first I didn't know what was going on and by the time I discovered the hidden narrative I was completely hooked. And to add to this there were interesting characters whose fate I became invested in. It was also a novel that didn't leave you guessing at the end – an explosive reveal made it absolutely clear how what the fate of any survivors was to play out.

So, this prequel novel was always going to face a number of, possibly insurmountable, problems: most significantly, the fact that the big story had already been told. And what, therefore, was left to tell? Well the author does a pretty good job of picking off some loose ends from the earlier tale and using these to knit together a further adventure. Yes, anybody who has read the first book (and you really do have to read ‘Girl’ first) will find few surprises here, but it does flesh out some background and… and this is where I'm struggling, because I'm not sure it does much else.

The structure, in terms of the book’s cast, is actually quite similar. There's a young person (a boy this time, who is possibly somewhere on the autistic spectrum), a mother figure in the guise of a senior scientist and a bunch of soldiers/scientists who are largely dispensable and who are overseen by a conniving and bullying leader. In consequence, the tale starts to have a very similar feel to the first book – but unfortunately without the surprises. In truth I drifted through much of it, barely engaged.

However, I don't want to be too down on it because I did appreciate the additional insight I got from reading this background piece and there is one surprise stored up in the form of an epilogue to the tale. In summary, it's ok - but not a patch on the first book.
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Reading Progress

June 28, 2017 – Started Reading
June 28, 2017 – Shelved
June 28, 2017 – Shelved as: apocalypse
June 28, 2017 – Shelved as: science-fiction
July 8, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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Deanna I'm disappointed to hear this one is a let down. I loved "Girl". I was so so on his next book. I may skip this one. Thanks for a thoughtful review.


Andrew Smith Deanna wrote: "I'm disappointed to hear this one is a let down. I loved "Girl". I was so so on his next book. I may skip this one. Thanks for a thoughtful review."

Quite a few others have thought more highly of this book that me, so I wouldn't want to switch you off it completely, Deanna. But it is what it is, a sequel with very few surprises - except one stored up for the end. I just found it hard going after the originality of 'Girl'.

Thanks for your thoughts on my thoughts :))


message 3: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Masterson Oh no! I'm sorry, Andrew! I hate when that happens with an author who's book I previously liked. Good luck with your next read! :)


message 4: by Jaline (new)

Jaline Sorry to hear you were disappointed in this read, Andrew. You gave a very well reasoned out review of the pro's and con's!


Andrew Smith Jennifer wrote: "Oh no! I'm sorry, Andrew! I hate when that happens with an author who's book I previously liked. Good luck with your next read! :)"

Thanks, Jennifer. I had a feeling this one would play out this way - it really had nowhere else to go. Better luck next time, eh :))


Andrew Smith Jaline wrote: "Sorry to hear you were disappointed in this read, Andrew. You gave a very well reasoned out review of the pro's and con's!"

Thanks, Jaline. I really wanted to like it. I tried to like it - and I certainly didn't hate it. But the first book left so little space to fill.


message 7: by Jaline (new)

Jaline Andrew wrote: "Thanks, Jaline. I really wanted to like it. I tried to like it - and I certainly didn't hate it. But the first book left so little space to fill."

There are only a few times where I have found a prequel to be a satisfying read, so I hear what you're saying for sure!


message 8: by Andrew (last edited Jul 12, 2017 10:50AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Andrew Smith Jaline wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Thanks, Jaline. I really wanted to like it. I tried to like it - and I certainly didn't hate it. But the first book left so little space to fill."

There are only a few times where I..."


Yes, I tend to agree with your views on prequels, Jaline. Lots of crime writers use them when the lead character in their series is getting a little long in the tooth. Sometimes it works ok, but they never seem quite as rewarding as a book following a chronological flow.


message 9: by Jaline (new)

Jaline The only one I have read who pulled this off really well was Michael Connelly in his Harry Bosch series. Super well done, mostly in flashbacks so maybe not a true prequel, but it was stellar. Of course, it's Harry Bosch. It's Michael Connelly. Both stars in my reading life. :)


Andrew Smith Jaline wrote: "The only one I have read who pulled this off really well was Michael Connelly in his Harry Bosch series. Super well done, mostly in flashbacks so maybe not a true prequel, but it was stellar. Of co..."

Yes, Connelly has pulled it off well. And like you, Jaline, l love his writing and I adore his Harry Bosch series. Actually, I'm just about to start Connelly's new book, The Late Show. I'm really looking forward to that one.
Lee Child has used this 'back in time' vehicle a few times - less successfully I think. In fact I've tired of Child's books and keep promising myself I won't read the next one. Lawrence Block used it with his Matt Scudder series and did it pretty well (another brilliant crime series, btw). I prefer the way Ian Rankin - and to a similar extent, Connelly - has extended the working life of his flatfoot by introducing cold cases and new, post-retirement, roles. Either way, I hope these excellent writers keep finding ways of keeping their series alive.


message 11: by Jaline (new)

Jaline Wow, Andrew! It's an interesting coincidence that you are about to start reading "The Late Show"! I just got it - I believe it's the first one in a new series.

Like you, 'I hope these excellent writers keep finding ways of keeping their series alive,' Sometimes when I'm caught up in reading really good literary fiction, I forget how incredibly good - and literary - some of these mystery writers are.


Andrew Smith Jaline wrote: "Wow, Andrew! It's an interesting coincidence that you are about to start reading "The Late Show"! I just got it - I believe it's the first one in a new series.

Like you, 'I hope these excellent wr..."


I'm about a third of the way into The late Show, Jaline, and I love it. The new character is a good one - a little like Bosch but of course she's a woman and she has her own, different, crosses to bear. I think it'll be another winner!

I believe James Lee Burke is a very literary crime fiction writer and I'd say Ian Rankin is too. My other favourites (in this genre) are Connelly - of course! - Lawrence Block and Donna Leon. Each is an incredibly gifted story teller and able to draw you into their narrative and cause you to empathise with their characters. And they're certainly as literary as many novelists who are batched as 'literary' writers.


message 13: by Jaline (new)

Jaline I agree with your assessment, Andrew! I have to also include Jefferey Deaver in my favorites. His writing is incredible and gripping. John Lescroart is another - and as you pointed out, there are so many others. Even if every writer that I want to read stopped writing tomorrow, I would never catch up in this lifetime - lol


Andrew Smith Jaline wrote: "I agree with your assessment, Andrew! I have to also include Jefferey Deaver in my favorites. His writing is incredible and gripping. John Lescroart is another - and as you pointed out, there are s..."

I've enjoyed loads of Deaver books too, Jaline. The man can certainly spin a good yarn. I'm less knowledgeable about Lescroart, though I do plan to read more of his work.

One of my constant worries - or perhaps 'hopes' is a better word - is that there's a brilliant writer out there who's been highly productive and yet I've totally missed out on his/her work to date. I want to find this person - very soon.

How to find the time to absorb all the material I want to read though is, as you say, a different problem altogether.


message 15: by Jaline (new)

Jaline I agree, Andrew - 100% - with everything you said! And while I continue searching for the the brilliant one(s) I've missed, I also want to keep up with the brilliant (or even just terrifically enjoyable) ones I have already met. It's a conundrum.


Andrew Smith Jaline wrote: "I agree, Andrew - 100% - with everything you said! And while I continue searching for the the brilliant one(s) I've missed, I also want to keep up with the brilliant (or even just terrifically enjo..."

It is, Jaline - it's hard to balance. I pared down (ruthlessly) the number of authors I routinely follow to allow room for new stuff. I think it's working, but when I get a bad run on new books the doubts sometimes surface.


message 17: by Jaline (new)

Jaline Andrew wrote: "It is, Jaline - it's hard to balance. I pared down (ruthlessly) the number of authors I routinely follow to allow room for new stuff. I think it's working, but when I get a bad run on new books the doubts sometimes surface. "

I can relate to this as well. Although I have tried my best not to read ones I have doubts about, the odd one still surfaces. This is mostly when the synopsis is written by Marketing in a way that is deceptive. I abhor that practice and it usually turns me off the author's other works as a result.


Nancy Hart despite the heavy marketing which focuses on TGWATG, this novel benefits from being read as a stand-alone work.


Andrew Smith Nancy wrote: "despite the heavy marketing which focuses on TGWATG, this novel benefits from being read as a stand-alone work."

That's an interesting thought, Nancy. My initial impression was that you'd lose something by not having read the first book - and you would. But on reflection you'd also gain something. Maybe a lack of foreknowledge would be a good thing. It's a difficult one for me to judge - you can't unring the bell, as they say. But you might be right.
Thanks for your dropping by with your input :)


message 20: by Ɗắɳ 2.☊ (new)

Ɗắɳ  2.☊ This does sound much too similar to the first book, and already knowing the eventual outcome lessens the mystery and stakes.

Thanks for the review, Andrew. I think I'll pass on this one.


Andrew Smith Ɗắɳ 2.☊ wrote: "This does sound much too similar to the first book, and already knowing the eventual outcome lessens the mystery and stakes.

Thanks for the review, Andrew. I think I'll pass on this one."


A good call to pass, I think, Dan. There's nothing really new here if you've read the first book. And anything that is new is drowned by the need to wade through all the other stuff.


Carol. Excellent review. I thought you pulled a lot of the issues together quite succinctly, and got at the frustration of why it just wasn't as enjoyable.


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