Lauren Beukes’s new novel, Bridge, introduces us to the titular character who finds herself adrift in life. Bridge dropped out of a business-degree program and now works full-time at a bookstore, regretting not pursuing her passion for film. She is unsure of what she truly wants or who she really is. In contrast, her best friend Dom, a nonbinary Puerto Rican artist, is self-assured and knows exactly who they are.
The story begins with Bridge’s mother, Jo, a larger-than-life neuroscientist, passing away from brain cancer. While Bridge and Dom are handling the post-death logistics at Jo’s house, they stumble upon a “dreamworm” – a strange cocoon-like object that evokes memories for Bridge. In a disgustingly intriguing moment, Bridge instinctively consumes a piece of the dreamworm and discovers that it serves as a portal to other worlds. By ingesting the dreamworm, Bridge can swap consciousness with alternate versions of herself in different universes, providing her with a unique opportunity to understand her true self. Furthermore, Jo has left behind clues hinting that she is alive and hiding in another universe, waiting for Bridge to find her.
Unfortunately, Bridge is not the only one searching for her mother. A hunter named Amber is determined to destroy the dreamworm and eliminate anyone who has used it. Amber possesses a psychic connection with her other selves in various universes, making her relentless in her pursuit. As an ex-military figure, her hivemind capability amplifies the horror of her character, turning her into an emotionless mission-driven entity.
The narrative structure mirrors the characters’ consciousness jumping between different bodies. At times, we inhabit Amber and Jo’s perspectives, while other times we follow Bridge or one of the alternate versions of herself. Despite the multiple viewpoints, Beukes’s storytelling remains concise and the pacing never wavers as Bridge explores different worlds desperately searching for her mother before Amber does.
Although the novel touches upon the ethical implications of body-swapping, it does not delve deeply into this theme. Additionally, some emotional moments, such as Dom’s unwavering loyalty to Bridge or Bridge’s determination to find her mother despite Jo’s neglect, could have been more fleshed out.
Nevertheless, these minor drawbacks do not overshadow the enjoyment of reading the book. Beukes’s excitement in crafting the story is evident, from the thrilling action sequences to the grotesque imagery of the dreamworm. Amidst the excitement, Beukes also poses a thought-provoking question: How do we shape our identities and become the people we are?
In conclusion, Lauren Beukes’s Bridge is a trippy and exhilarating novel that takes readers on a thrilling journey through multiple universes. Despite a few narrative gaps, the book remains a pleasure to read, showcasing the author’s enthusiasm and skillful storytelling.