Under the Amoral Bridge by Gary Ballard
Published: CreateSpace (January 31, 2008)
Posted: Goodreads (Aug 28, 2016)
(3.8 / 5)
Under the Amoral Bridge by Gary Bollard is the first novel in The Bridge Chronicles trilogy. Originally published in installments on the author’s blog, Amoral Bridge is a story about a hacker-turned-fixer named Artemis Bridge. With a healthy bit of hatred towards the human race, Bridge is forced to play a game of dealing in deadly secrets with morally reprehensible enemies.
Artemis knows people. Whether you have a dirty deed that needs doing or a festering secret that needs burying, he can fix it for you. For a price.
Amoral Bridge is an enjoyable read that never slows down. Artemis Bridge, although clever when he needs to be, isn’t ashamed of getting his hands dirty. Unfortunately this always leads to him as the punching bag (his strength is in cunning not physical prowess). But that’s okay because he’s an awesome character that keeps getting back up! Until he falls back down again. What can I say? Fixers have it rough!
Another thing I really liked about the novel is that it gives off a very Altered Carbon feel, very noir. The world itself is a downtrodden and gritty, one where questionable deeds become the norm. The reader is made to sympathize with the anti-hero. He reminds me a bit of Lenny Nero from Strange Days. His story is more central to the plot than the world itself and, since the writing is great, that story is worth reading.
While Under the Amoral Bridge had the potential to be a really great cyberpunk read, there are a few things that prevented me from loving it as much as I could have.
The characters are too few. Aristotle, his “bodyguard,” is just there for show, only somewhat interesting during the last 20% of the novel. Without giving too much away, Angela’s “change” at the end of the novel is too sudden, too cliché. Similarly, there’s also no character development. We get the whole “is he really amoral?” thing just by the first few pages, but there’s almost no self-reflection. The novel is more about the main character’s actions and not his motivations.
One of the things I didn’t like was that the world was also too barebones. There’s little life of its own there and it would do with more world-building. Under the Amoral Bridge nails the dark and gritty part but uses its setting as a backdrop more than a living place to enjoy. Many concepts were borrowed from other works in the genre. SimSense (Shadowrun)/StimSim (Gibson) and Dumpshock for cyberdecks was used here for crèche (an awesome idea with the saline, though), the corporate LGL legislation to replace government and restore order, etc. All cool ideas but they could have been implemented better. Customized tailored.
Not every cyberpunk novel needs to be hardcore or re-invent the wheel. Under the Amoral Bridge is a quick, well-written read with an interesting main character and decent story. While it’s not super original or thought provoking, it’s definitely entertaining and worth reading. (3.8/5 Edge; 4/5 Goodreads)