Book Review

The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey

the boy on the bridge

I LOVED The Girl with All the Gifts, and so it was with a mix of excitement and nerves that I read The Boy on the Bridge, unsure as to whether a return to the same world would work.

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.

I’ve used the “official” blurb here, but for me this is a misrepresentation of what the novel is about.  Yes, Stephen – the titular boy – is very clever.  But, as with many individuals who don’t conform to social norms, he is largely misunderstood and often underestimated.  So whilst the people did send him out into the world, it wasn’t because they thought he could save them.  I think that a more accurate blurb would be:

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

This boy, with his eidetic memory and undeniable intelligence, was largely misunderstood by those around him, and only one person, Dr Samrina Khan, had any faith in him.

When Khan was picked for a scientific mission outside the relative safety of Beacon, she ensured that the boy was a part of the mission.

And what he discovers out in the world is nothing short of astonishing.

Stephen Greaves is a teenager when Dr Khan and the team of scientists and soldiers set off on their journey and he is given a wide berth by most of his travelling companions.  This suits him perfectly, as social interaction is extremely difficult for him, and physical contact is to be avoided at all costs.  What makes Stephen different to those around him isn’t labelled in the novel – something that I think was deliberate.  To me it seemed that it didn’t matter why he was different, and that the labels weren’t important, it just matters that he is different.  I thought that Carey handled this character sensitively, exploring what makes Stephen different as well as how these differences put Stephen in a unique and advantageous position, enabling him to study the hungries and to make a new discovery.

Because of the nature of their journey, the team of scientists is accompanied by an armed military escort, and I did find that the minor characters weren’t particularly well defined, and I did occasionally get them mixed up to start with.  It did get easier as the novel progressed, however, and I thought that the main characters and their complex backstories were brilliant.  With twelve people from quite different backgrounds living in such close proximity for an extended period of time, it didn’t take long for factions and hidden agendas to emerge, and I loved the tension that this added to the novel.

The Boy on the Bridge is set in the same world as The Girl with All the Gifts, but I think that this is a prequel despite being the second novel published.  I say I think because the relative timing of the two wasn’t entirely clear to me, although that might just be because it’s a while since I read The Girl with All the Gifts.  Whether a prequel or a companion novel, I do think that there is benefit in reading The Girl with All the Gifts first.  I felt that The Boy on the Bridge assumed the reader’s familiarity with the world in which the novels are set, and I wonder if the lack of context might be off-putting to new readers.  It’s difficult to say for sure, but I felt that the world building wasn’t as strong in this novel.  Whichever you start with, I definitely recommend these novels for those looking for a spin on the zombie tale.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


  1. I’m so excited to read this one – great, and informative, review! My understanding was, it is a prequel, but written with the understanding that readers will already have read TGWATG (as it was published first), so they are already familiar with the “world”

    1. If that was the intent, it was spot on, but I do think it’s a little presumptuous, and potentially limits readership. Although TGWATG was pretty big, so maybe that’s not much of a concern.

      1. Definitely presumptuous, but I guess everywhere this book is, it mentions TGWATG, but saying that, if you see this as a prequel, you’ll probably pick it up first 🤔

  2. Nice to see another perspective on this one. I too was confused about the timing of the two despite having read them in publishing order. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one. But I do think both books are worth reading. I very much enjoyed them. The links to the two are below if ye care to read them. No pressure.
    x The Captain
    PS Apparently I unintentionally posted reviews for the two exactly one year apart!

    1. Thanks, Captain. I will take a look at your reviews.
      I agree that these are books that are worth reading – they are very entertaining, and I did enjoy the science perspective of the TBOTB. It just didn’t quite do for me what TGWATG did.

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