The Bridge, J.S. Breukelaar (Meerkat Press 978-1-946154-44-6 $15.95 227pp, tp) June 2021.
J.S. Breukelaar’s The Bridge may be a challenging read for some, but it is certainly a rewarding one. Breukelaar immediately immerses the reader in a complex world with a complicated protagonist. Information is integrated seamlessly into the plot and everything becomes clearer only as one continues to read. Meera is a “Made” – created by the “Father” through Augmented Reproductive Technology “by inserting a soluble microscopic implant laced with his Forever Code into a human female zygote in vitro, birthed by a surrogate” then raised in a cult known as the Blood Temple. The Father views women as “the Devil’s work…. An accident of nature, and therefore, unnatural as hell.” The female Mades have no fallopian tubes, do not menstruate, and are infertile. This gives them, according to the Father, at least a chance at Paradise. The Mades supposedly lack the capacity for higher-level cognitive function. They have impaired memories and are unable to lie. Meera, however, is not a normal Made. She had a twin, Kai, and multiple births can foul the Father’s code. Kai, the Father’s favorite and popular with the other Mades, did not survive the Father’s “unmaking” of her. Nineteen-year-old Meera owes her survival to Narn, a scientist, witch, storyteller, and more. She becomes a student at Wellsburg College in a program tailored for Blood Temple survivors, part of government aid made in redress. She quickly learns the Mades are more test subjects than scholars. In order to survive at the college, she needs Narn to tell her stories that she can use as part of a fiction class. Despite the technological angle, the novel is not set in the future, but an alternative present revealed as the narrative unspools. As Meera’s tale is told, more backstory is revealed. Staying with it is not difficult – Breukelaar’s dark novel is spellbinding – just don’t expect much to be laid out upfront.
Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron OH, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.
This review and more like it in the June 2021 issue of Locus.
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