The Boy on the Bridge is second book of The Hungry Plague series by M. R. Carey, and is a prequel, a.k.a Non-Linear Sequel to the first book, The Girl With All the Gifts. In T.G.W.A.T.G., the main characters stumble upon an abandoned mobile research facility/zombie-proof tank. This land leviathan is named Rosalind Franklin; the last act of the story takes place in and around Rosie. It is never explained how the vehicle came to be where they discovered it, or what happened to the crew who ventured out past the gates of Beacon in search of a cure.
T.B.O.T.B......IS that story.
To anyone who's read the first book, this novel is on some level a Locked Room Mystery.
To anyone interested in scientific discovery, it is about the desperate search for a cure to the Hungry Pathogen.
To anyone looking for a top-notch thriller, it is that too.
In the first chapter, it is revealed that one of the twelve crewmembers is pregnant ("...seven weeks into a fifteen-month mission...").
What follows, from this premise, is—very simply—epic.
The Boy On The Bridge includes the following tropes:
- All the Good Men Are Gay: Fosss feelings about Akimwe and Phillips, the only members of the expedition she felt attracted to.
- Apocalypse How: The story begins without much detail on the world (being very focused on the lives of its crew and immediate surroundings), but is firmly a Class 1 world. And already teetering on the edge of 2.
- Ass Kicking Equals Authority: Often subverted and avoided—the potential for violence is always near at hand, but the characters struggle to maintain composure/balance.
- Big Damn Heroes: "....they've probably got a couple of seconds before they have to deal with vertical incoming. But Rosie comes first and she comes like thunder, the sweetest sound McQueen has ever heard."
- Both Sides Have a Point: a lot of the increasingly bitter and ugly conflicts between McQueen and Carlisle come down to this, although the narrative generally sides with Carlisle.
- Cold Sniper: McQueen and Foss are frighteningly efficient and distant, especially on the job. This is lampshaded by McQueen's internal monologue, where he notes that it's easy to feel guilt-free about killing zombies in the purpose of some greater cause.
- Constantly Curious: Stephen, like Melanie, is insatiably curious—although more compulsively so.
- Dark and Troubled Past:
- Stephen. Poor, poor Stephen. He was the Sole Survivor of a group Carlisle, Dr. Khan and a few others on their way to Beacon witnesses being attacked, after his parents shielded him with their own bodies and were mauled to death for it, after which he experienced a miserable time in Beacon's makeshift orphanage before going to live with Dr. Khan.
- Also Colonel Carlisle, who killed scores of people with napalm, but ultimately very few hungries, in a bombing run that he had vehemently protested against, and as punishment been assigned to personally carry out.
- Developing Doomed Characters: For readers of TGWATG, knowing that Rosie will eventually be abandoned somewhere in the overgrown labyrinth of London means that we've gotta assume that not everyone in the crew is gonna make it to the Credits.
- Dwindling Party: From that initial crew of twelve apostles....
- Earn Your Happy Ending: While many of the crew are killed, Stephen does manage to ensure that Dr. Khan's (born-infected) baby is placed among this who will care for him, while Carlisle and the other survivors find somewhere where the pathogens can't reach that altitude, and as revealed in the epilogue manage to establish a large colony there, survive Melanie releasing the spores from the first book (also leading to hope there may be others in high altitudes around the world), with the Hungry Children being willing to trade with them to help them survive in order to establish a lasting peace.
- French Jerk: Dr. Fournier, a Dirty Coward, with a case of It's All About Me who spends far more time spying on Colonel Carlisle for Brigadier Fry than actually working to carry out their mission.
- I Cannot Self-Terminate.
- Flesh-Eating Hungries
- Frontline General: Zigzagged with Carlisle. He usually stays in Rosie while the others are out collecting hungrier to experiment on, but thats due to his bad hip, and he is willing to put himself at risk when things are desperate. During the Breakdown he played this straighter, personally going to rescue scientists from a university and then leading them and a convoy of civilians he picked up to Beacon on foot.
- General Ripper: Brigadier Fry, who fought the hungries in ineffective ways that caused massive collateral damage and is tryin to cement her hold on Beacon even if it means killing everyone in her way.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: Most of the crew refer to Greaves as 'the Robot', for his odd affect and social anxiety.
- Jumped at the Call: After so many months of no progress, most of the soldiers and science team leap at the chance to go out and search when it looks like there might be a kind of Hungry that no ones encountered out there.
- Kilroy Was Here: when McQueen and Phillips get the atsmosphere samples from the last cache, on the Cairngorm Plateau, Phillips pauses to leave his dogtags behind.
- Last-Name Basis: Characters shift between first or last-name basis at certain points. Sometimes the narrative will use one while characters are doing the other.
- Mama Bear: Rina, to Stephen.
- Never My Fault: Averted, after some quiet reflection, McQueen accepts that he was wrong to use the flamethrower in when they were in the middle of town, and that he deserved some punishment for that, but when he says as much to Carlisle and Carlisle still refuses to give him access to the turret guns, which he feels no one else can go as good of a job protecting the group with, McQueen takes it poorly.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: McQueen opening fire on the intelligent hungries as they're in the middle of negotiating with Carlisle, Khan, Stephen and Dr. Penny, as all he sees when he comes over the hill is the four of them surrounded by hungries.
- Not Using the "Z" Word: They are called "hungries."
- Our Zombies Are Different: They breed.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: The reason that Colonel Carlisle was sent on the mission (with shades of a Uriah Gambit also being present in the second half).
- The Reliable One: Private Sixsmith, the driver, is the most loyal and efficient of Carlisle's five soldiers.
- Retcon: A rather glaring one. The original book claimed that Dr. Caldwell ranked twenty-seventh out of the candidates for the mission, but this book claims that it was neck and neck between her and Fournier for the lead spot (although that may have been Brigadier Fry lying to manipulate Fournier) and that it wasn't the highest-rated scientists being sent out, but the competent yet expendable ones.
- Scientist vs. Soldier: The novel has the military leaders caring only about dominance and merely using the scientists efforts to distract people. The common soldiers have more integrity but view the scientists as naive, judgmental, and unlikely to accomplish something, while the scientists see them as too callous towards killing Hungries, and likely to exploit their discoveries by breeding the hungries children like cattle and slaughtering them to make a vaccine which will only provide short-term relief.
- The Smart Guy. All of the scientists (except maybe Fournier) to some extent, and Sixsmith and Lutes, the soldiers in charge of running and maintaining Rosie.
- Straight Gay: Dr. Akimwe and Private Phillips are unstereotypicaj gay men.
- Technically Living Zombie: The hungries are technically alive, because the fungus operates their nervous system. Moreso for the hungry children, where the fungus acts as more symbiotic. And also because they develop other qualities befitting higher lifeforms, such as rituals and abstract thought.
- Uncertain Doom:
- The crew of The Charles Darwin another mobile lab that went out before Stephen and the others, radioed the they were being chased by a group of junkers, broke contact and was never heard from again.
- Akimwe, who goes mad and leaves the group, on a path likely to take him to the crowd of pursuing Hungry Children who would have almost certainly killed him.
- Wasteland Elder: In the Distant Epilogue, Colonel Carlisle is leading a ramshackle settlement of "ninety tents and thirty-seven wooden huts" atop the one plateau in the U.K. where neither The Hungries nor airborne pathogens can reach.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: The first of the group to die Lutes.
- Will Not Tell a Lie: Stephen.