Welcome back to Booksquad – our monthly online book club where I pick a book (some suggested by you) to read and then come to tell you what I thought about it, and hopefully include some of your thoughts too!
In April I read The Boy on the Bridge by M.R Carey – in the March Booksquad post where I chose it, I mentioned that I’d read the previous book by the author set in the same world – The Girl With All the Gifts – and really enjoyed it, so was hoping this would be similar. This book is similar, partly because it deals with the same apocalyptic world where the human race is fighting for survival, but also because there are specific elements of the story which are mirrored in the book – both have a focus towards an extraordinary child who is ostracised apart from one adult who has a protective influence over them, struggling to survive and make a difference, both also are set on an expedition of sorts where there are very real dangers to face, and both spend significant amounts of time in a vehicle known as ‘Rosie’.
Before I say too much about this book, I think I should consider what I loved so much about The Girl With All the Gifts. I basically read it by accident! It isn’t the book I would ordinarily have picked up as a holiday read, it was given to me as a present by someone who thought it was a fantasy story about a magical child. I didn’t really read the blurb (or cover) before I started, and it took me a few pages to realise that it was a very different story from what I had expected, by which point, I was invested in the character of Melanie and so carried on reading. I think a large part of my enjoyment was due to the surprise of reading something very different to my usual choice, and contrary to my expectations. Zombie apocalypse is a fairly well-traversed plot line in books and film, but this had an interesting take on it and I really found it engaging.
With The Boy on the Bridge, I knew what I was getting into because the story was set in the same world. Whilst I didn’t know the specifics of how it correlated to the previous book, particularly in regards to timing, I already knew the basics of this world – I wasn’t picking up information about the zombie plague or how the world had reacted, because I’d already had that. I think to a degree that lessened my enjoyment of this book. If I had read this one, without having read the other, I suspect I might have enjoyed it more. Overall I found that some parts were rehashing what I already knew, and that I found myself more distracted by trying to figure out what time period this book was set in, in relation to the other story. I felt slightly disjointed throughout reading this one.
I also found that I didn’t engage with the characters as well in this book. Greaves, a teenage genius who is most likely autistic, didn’t feel like the main character until a fair way into the story and I just didn’t connect with – although I did like how his thought processing was described. The blurb of the book suggested he was a child who’d been sent out into the dangerous world because he could save humanity, when in the story he is technically still a child at 15 but more like an adult, and was only on the expedition at the insistence of his pseudo-mother, Dr Khan. The only character I really felt a significant amount of interest in was Colonel Carlisle – it may be in part because there were more characters in this story, so it meant attention to them was spread more thinly. It also felt that towards the end a number of characters were killed off in quick succession because they’d become an inconvenience, and none of their deaths had a real impact because so little connection had been built around them.
On the positive side, it was interesting to have more of an insight into the political landscape of apocalyptic Britain – in the previous book very little is mentioned about The Beacon as it’s presumed to have probably already fallen, where as in this story there are references to The Beacon and what causes it’s downfall. I found that when that played out, it explained some of the events of the previous books. I also really enjoyed the joining of the two stories at the end of this book, where Melanie from The Girl With All the Gifts appears in the epilogue twenty years later, and gives some idea of how things have progressed following the end of both stories.
Overall it was an interesting story, but for me the first book outshines this one and I couldn’t help but compare all the way through.
Over to you –
Ken Major @KenMajor83 posted a review on Goodreads.com;
‘Having only recently read TGWATG earlier this month, I started to find that a bulk of the story was very reminiscent.
Their were times when I started to blur the plots together, trying to remember if the people in this book were important characters in the first story.
But I really liked the pregnancy strand and fleshing out the virus effected the ‘hungries’.’
The next pick –
The May Booksquad choice was actually a suggestion from Ken! He mentioned it on Twitter a while ago, suggesting it sounded like one that might appeal to me and having read the blurb, I can see why! The next choice is The Fandom by Anna Day.
I’ve not read anything by Anna Day previously, so don’t know quite what to expect. Let me know if you’re reading along, or have read it before, as well as giving any other suggestions for future Booksquad picks!
Books we have read so far; All That She Could See by Carrie Hope Fletcher, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, Frank Derrick’s Holiday of a Lifetime by J.B. Morrison, The Peshawar Lancers by S.M Stirling, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and The Boy on the Bridge by M.R Carey.
Books suggested for future; Girl on a Train by by Paula Hawkins, and Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks.