Book Talk: 'Bridge 108' by Anne Charnock - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Book Talk: 'Bridge 108' by Anne Charnock

Alexander Wallace takes it to the bridge.
The Cassandras of climate change keep telling us that the warming of the Earth will be catastrophic. Science fiction has dealt with this; Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future deals with this head-on. Other books take subtler tacks; Becky Chambers’ To Be Taught, If Fortunate has it in the background. Here, we shall discuss a book that does similar: Anne Charnock’s 2020 novel Bridge 108.

This novel is not so much an apocalypse novel as it is a refugee novel. In addition to the climate change elements, it is a story of what happens when people are displaced from the lands they had called home. It is set in Britain, a country that is seemingly decently weathering the crisis, but it is showing cracks all the same.

The decent weathering in Britain is mostly reserved for its citizens, particularly the well-off to begin with. This does not hold for the refugees from various countries, some from Europe, in the massive camps that dot the landscape. They call to mind any number of refugee camps in the Middle East, like Zaatari in Jordan for refugees from the Syrian Civil War, or any number of refugee camps dotting the Middle East for Palestinians who were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. These camps are not jails; they are squalid yet vibrant towns in their own right (Zaatari could qualify as one of the largest cities in Jordan if it were a proper city!), brimming with both hope and tension in a land that resents their presence.

Charnock made the interesting decision to have the point of view shift each chapter. Some characters repeat, but others are present only for their chapters and small bits of others. The whole story focuses around a refugee boy from Spain who is trying to find a better life than that which his refugee camp in England near the border with Wales can offer him. You get the point of view of the woman who takes him in, her brother-in-law and business partner, an undercover agent for the British refugee authority, and others.

This is a book that, to its great credit, does not understate the complexity of any refugee situation. A lesser writer could have had its argument become mawkish and boorish, but Charnock’s craft is far better than that. Particularly insightful is how the main character may have been a victim of human trafficking according to international law, but finds himself in a situation that is infinitely better than being on the run. Similar occurs with other particular policies backed by the British government, and the dissonance between the honest good intentions of those in power and the results they actually get.

Bridge 108 is a timely novel. As climate change gets worse and worse, and refugees continue to flee their homelands, the more prescient this novel will become. It is an odd sensation to read a novel you know is going to age well; unfortunately, it will do so because of how accurately it sees the cataclysm approaching us.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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