My review of M. R. Carey's The Boy on the Bridge

Time to catch up on some book reviews! Way behind these days. Not because I'm not reading good stuff, but because I'm a knucklehead with too much to do and poor time management.

The Boy on the Bridge is a prequel of sorts to The Girl with All the Gifts (one of my absolute favorite reads of 2015), the story taking place some years before. Mr. Carey does not disappoint. This is an amazing book. There are some similarities to Girl in story and structure, with a similar relationship between a child who is different and special and a caring adult with baggage, but I found this to be welcome and familiar as opposed to a repeat.

The story is wonderful, but what I still find most amazing about Carey's work is his writing style and obvious depth of thought. Overall, the narration proceeds with a subtly shifting and often ambiguous perspective that set me slightly off kilter, adding an almost queasy uncomfortability (yes I may have made that word up) to the story and the reading experience. But Carey is no novice, and especially considering the subject matter of the book, this is obviously a purposeful tactic on his part. He's creating an atmosphere not only with words but by how he uses them as well. The effect is like that of having subtly shifting shale beneath your feet, or standing on the deck of a ship, something you feel more than consciously recognize. 

The book is written in present tense (as was Girl), something we don't see often in adult fiction, sci-fi or otherwise. Then there are the subtle style changes as we shift between character POVs. The young Stephen Greaves is the "child" in the story, a teenager with a brilliant mind but some characteristics that place him somewhere on the Asberger's Syndrome or autism scale - it's never said - and a savant. Carey not only treats this with respect, he is able to capture Stephen's frame of mind and condition with class and inspiration, presenting a voice that is decidedly more youthful but more calculating a the same time. He adeptly navigates the terrain of Stephen's mind - a boy with a photographic memory and far superior analytic skills than most adults.

Boy is the work of an incredible mind. I got the same feeling reading is as I do when I read Cormac McArthy - that there's a lot more going on here than I may understand. I continue to be astounded by Carey's powers of description, how he is able to weave nostalgia with action and humor, his choices of focus, and masterful balance of bleakness and humanity. This is a fantastic read. Don't miss out.