2015’s The Girl With All The Gifts was a breathtakingly original dystopian fiction. Sadly the follow up – a prequel – The Boy on the Bridge lacks some of the magic of the original.
We return to the world of the first novel – one dominated by “hungries”, where a small group of survivors led by an organization called Beacon, are either soldiers or scientists looking for a cure. A particular expedition is the focus, and the only points of interest are the fact that they are in the same vehicle eventually commandeered by the exceptional Melanie at the end of the first novel, and by the fact that one of the doctors finds herself illegally pregnant on a Tour of Duty.
As Dr Khan’s time of birth nears, the tension finally builds (in the last third of the novel) when they discover the same group of more conscious zombie children that have somehow managed to retain enough consciousness to function beyond the hunger that traditionally dominates the “hungries”.
We know the team piloting Rosie are doomed, but not how. A delegation to the young hungries has devastating consequences for the crew and leaves a young whizkid scientist with the key to solving the zombie virus – but it comes at an unthinkable cost.
Fans of the first novel might be interested in this, but I found it slower paced and less engaging. The mystery of the first novel has already been solved. The end is interesting – as it leaps forward several years to give us clues as to how the whole series is going to conclude. What I can say for M. R Carey though is that he is exceptional at creating characters and fleshing them out with great skill and care. You will care about the characters at the end of this book.
Stephen King co-wrote this novel with his son Owen, passing the chapters between them and re-writing each other. The result is a novel that feels very much like King himself – his stamp is all over it.
Sleeping Beauties imagines a world in which women fall asleep and begin constructing some kind of cocoon. It’s a dangerous kind of slumber – when someone attempts to wake them unnatural strength and aggression is the result. The world of men goes pretty much as you would expect – sense and reason fall very much by the wayside. King is clearly a feminist.
Meanwhile, the women wake up in an alternative setting and begin setting up their own society which, while technologically behind the times, is pretty successful. Time passes differently there, and while the Aurora virus has only taken hold in the real world for a few days, a year or more passes in the world of the sleeping women.
Behind it all is Evie Black, the supernatural force you would come to expect from a Stephen King novel. Both malevolent and insightful, its hard to cast her as either hero or villain. She clearly sits somewhere in between. Awake and safe in a prison cell, she forms much of the conflict in the text as the characters battle for what to do with her.
Nothing extraordinary here, this novel is very much “in the pocket” for King. No more than a comfortable read.
Veronica Roth’s Divergent series was so incredibly popular, that publishing a new storyline, especially one markedly different, must elicit some angst – for the author and readers alike. And while I haven’t read that many positive reviews of her latest offering Carve the Mark, I ended up really enjoying it.
Much less dystopian than Divergent,
is pure science fiction. It concerns itself with two peoples who live on the same planet – the Shotet and the Thuvhe – but cannot live in harmony. The Thuvhe live quietly and peacefully while the Shotet pillage and scavenge, and violent existence best represented by their tradition of carving a mark on their own arms each time they take a life.
Naturally, a young man and a young woman from each culture are thrown together and fall in love. But its a little more complicated than that. This is a galaxy with two particularly interesting features. Firstly, oracles make the fates of important people public – and this causes political manipulation to attempt to challenge or protect fate. The second, is the energy source known as the ‘current’ which flows around them all, and gifts each inhabitant with a particular ‘currentgift’. Cyra, our Juliet character, can make others feel pain, but the cost is that she lives in constant pain herself. Akos, kidnapped from Thuvhe by Cyra’s brother as he was fated to serve them, is gifted with the ability to block the currentgifts of others – and thus relieve Cyra’s constant pain. Eventually they come to mean something more to each other than forced companions and Cyra is forced to confront her brother – a violent dictator – and take a stand for the rights of others.
There’s more to the story than this, including the brother of Akos who becomes a willing oracle to the Shotet and an underground rebellion. Overall, I thought this was a well-realised fictional world with interesting moral quandaries and the beginning of a tasty story. Definitely worth a look.