Books you should read: The Bridge

A few weeks ago, Amazon’s crack marketing AI decided to recommend a few books for me. That AI must be getting better because instead of the latest special-edition Twilight books, I was greeted with this:

“The asteroid was called the Hand of God when it hit.”

That’s the first sentence of The Bridge, a new Sci-Fi book by Leonard Petracci. If you think that line sucks you in, wait until you read the whole first chapter.

The Bridge is solidly in the generation ship trope. A voyage hundreds or even thousands of years long, with no sleep or stasis pods. The original crew knows they have no hope of seeing their destination, nor will their children and grandchildren. Heinlein delved into it with Orphans of the Sky. Even Robert Goddard himself discussed generation ships in The Last Migration.

I wouldn’t call The Bridge hard Sci-Fi — and that’s perfectly fine. Leonard isn’t going for scientific accuracy. It’s a great character driven story. If you enjoyed a book like Ready Player One, you’ll probably enjoy this.

The Bridge Is the story of Dandelion 14, a ship carrying people of Earth to a new planet. At some point during the journey, Dandelion 14 was struck by an asteroid, which split the ship in two. Only a few wires and cables keep the halves of the ship together. The crew on both sides of the ship survived, but they had no way to communicate. They do catch glimpses of each other in the windows though.

Much of the story is told in the first person by Horatius, a young man born hundreds of years after the asteroid strike. Horatius’ side of the ship has a population of one thousand, carefully measured at each census. They’ve lost knowledge of how to operate the ship’s systems, but they are surviving. Most of the population are gardeners, but there are doctors, cooks, porters, and a few historians. At four years old, Horatius is selected to become a gardener, like his father was before him. But Horatius has higher aspirations. He longs to become a historian to learn the secrets of the generations that came before him and to write his own story down for those who will come after.

Horatius sees the faces of the people on the other side of the ship as well. Gaunt, hungry, often fighting with knives or other weapons. A stark contrast to the well-fed people on his side of the vessel. The exception is one red-haired girl about his age. He often finds her staring back at him, watching him.

Horatius might have been chosen as a gardener, but he’s clever — a fact that sometimes gets him in trouble. His life takes an abrupt turn when the sleeping ship awakens with an announcement blaring “Systems Rebooting, Ship damage assessed. Reuniting the two halves of the ship and restoring airlock, approximately twenty-four hours until complete.”

The hardest part of writing a book review is not giving too much away. While I won’t tell you much more about the plot for The Bridge, I can tell a bit about how the book came about. You might call this book a hack of the publishing system. Leonard Petracci is also known as leoduhvinci on Reddit. The Bridge started life as Leonard’s response to a post on /r/writingprompts. The prompt went like this:

After almost 1,000 years the population of a generation ship has lost the ability to understand most technology and now lives at a pre-industrial level. Today the ship reaches its destination and the automated systems come back online.

Leonard ’s response to the prompt shot straight to the top, and became the first chapter of The Bridge. Chapter 2 followed soon after. In only a few months, the book was complete. Available on Reddit, and on Leonard’s website. The Bridge is also available on Amazon for Kindle, and on paper from Amazon’s CreateSpace.

The only real criticism I have about The Bridge is the ending. The book’s resolution felt a bit rushed. It would have been nice to have a few more pages telling us what happened to the characters after the major events of the book. Leonard is planning a sequel though, and he teases this in the final pages.

You can start reading The Bridge right now on Leonard’s website. He has the entire book online for free for a few more weeks. If you’ve missed the free period, the Kindle edition is currently $2.99.

95 thoughts on “Books you should read: The Bridge

  1. Saw it on Writing Prompts a few weeks ago, and bought the ebook. I thought it was well written, but agree that it ended a bit abruptly. I’ll probably get the sequel when it becomes available, if I see it.

  2. wow… Excellent review I really want to read the book now. I enjoyed Ready Player One and Armada. So I will definitely pick this one up. The premise is kinda similar to the last few Doctor Who Episodes of last season.

      1. since when is hackaday a bookclub? hate to be the troll to bring back an old saying but “definetly not a hack” and why the heck would you post it here?? it really dosnt fit the overall theme of hackaday….

      2. Hackaday has done book advertising before. I bought The Car Hacker’s Handbook after reading Hackaday’s glowing review of it. Turns out the book is requires specific hardware that is sold in the Hackaday store, a fact the review did not mention.

  3. I’ve been wondering what a post about a book might have to do with this website, so I guess the writer’s a real hack.

    “The asteroid was called the Hand of God when it hit.”
    Haha

    1. Yeah, usually such names are given shortly AFTER the action…
      Such as it took several days (weeks) before news commentators started referring to the events of 11 September, 2001, as “Nine-eleven”.
      But to call it “the Hand of God” the moment it hit, seems unlikely, unless they had prior knowledge of its trajectory and were unable to evade collision. Then, they accepted that it was going to be a traumatic event that if they survived,
      would be remembered as a division in their timeline.

      1. I took it as the asteroid was detected before it hit, but the ship couldn’t get out of the way in time. (Large ship… ionic drive… very slow to make changes in course)
        Think of what religious sects might call an asteroid heading for earth.

      2. That’s from the point of view of a character who was born generations after the incident in a culture that had lost their scientific knowledge and only two people who have time to learn the ship’s history. But yeah, you should totally bash books you don’t understand.

    1. Seriously though. The hallmark of terrible scifi is that your whole plot hinges on an obvious oversight like, “why couldn’t they just make up a sign language or draw pictures to each other?”. That sort of an author just forces the story against all implausibilities and plot holes, so the plot usually turns out nonsensical and silly.

      No way to communicate my ass. Flash a lightbulb or a mirror, bang on the cables hanging between the ship’s halves, paint huge letters on the windows, mime words (you can see the person’s face, yet you can’t lip-read??)

        1. While the two groups are able to communicate that way, it would make sense for them to have given up after a couple years if they found they weren’t able to work out any way to get the ship back together or collaborate on anything.

          1. I haven’t read the book, so this may well be covered already, but I wonder why the fight-y half didn’t ask the gardener half for some gardening tips?

      1. A lot of people in these comments, like you, are bashing on a book they aren’t willing to read. If you want to know more about why they struggle with communication go read the book instead of having people read it for you.

        1. No. I don’t like scifi. 99% of the time I’ve bothered, it’s been absolute dross that has nothing to do with science, and the only fantasy element is about jerking off with some nerd valhalla “uplifted singularity” bullshit, or just and excuse to have pew pew space airplanes.

        2. What Josh said. I must say, I’m rather shocked that so many people have so much time on their hands that they not only feel compelled to ridicule a book they’ve never read, but give us all the reasons why they don’t intend to.

          To all you newly-appointed critics: Get a life!

          1. The human ego will always be a mystery. Some adults can’t even figure out how to dress themselves properly, and you expect them to actually read a book? You’re quite the optimist. ;-)

    2. I wonder, why and how everyone on the ship lost their knowledge in mere 1000 years of living on a technologically advanced spaceship? If I were designing a generations ship, the most important thing would be to keep and safeguard all the knowledge necessary not only to keep ship working but to start new colony when it arrives to its destination. Hard SF version of this story would be all about keeping everyone alive and repairing the ship with limited resources. It would be like The Martian, but with more people…

      1. I suppose people can just fall into a culture where they let things slide. Not much of the Roman technology was left after a couple hundred years when they left western Europe, it took about a thousand years to get back to the same level of civilisation.

        1. That was because of the whole St. Augustine business which was a guy telling everyone to ignore all worldly knowledge in favor of your spot in heaven, to the point where they were scraping off ink from the remaining manuscripts to write bibles on them.

          Plus the fact that the Romans were a bit dumb and didn’t care about preserving their knowledge to the future generations.

          1. LOL I was about to comment Roman technology fell victim to the religion that a Roman Emperor that in effect made mandatory before I caught a glimpse of your comment. IMO given their distinct advantage modern adherents of that religion where just as stupid as those living in the dark ages. I know many who readily dismiss history and science in favor of a some “god will provide” meme.

          2. Dax, now you’ve went and did it. Feeling moved to comment on a book review, without even mentioning the book at all is one thing. Feeling moved to share your bigoted view of Faith in general, and the Christianity that I love, is _WAY_ over the top.

      2. This is a shltty book written on Reddit’s notoriously circlejerky “WritingPrompts.” Expecting more than fifth-grade level plot hole patching and logic is like expecting a high-speed multilayer PCB design from a gorilla.

          1. with the internet and everything these days (and Kindle etc etc), there are a helluva lot more sci fi books being ‘published’. I’m not sure that there are a lot more good books though than there would be without the internet (by good I’m thinking Asimov, Clarke, Stephenson, Dick, Heinlen, Herbert, Robinson etc.). Lots of great new stuff, just loads more rubbish too.

    3. Yeah I don’t think you thought this through before posting. Most fiction literature have more or less obvious failures, sometimes they are “patched” by creating unusual rules in the fictional universe.

      But this isn’t really a failure – it is a decision made in order to create the scenario where the story is told. The separation with (very limited) communication is needed to have the platform to tell the story. Sure that could be created by dedicating a lot of the story to tell why things are as they are before the main story can begin.

      By obsessing over this so much I guess you never read fiction and throw all technical literature in the “over” if they doesn’t explain every little detail?

      1. yep, you have to turn a blind eye sometimes. The one that I can’t get over though is in Indiana Jones and the last crusade, where his pursuers ignite the surface hydrocarbons in the underground chamber with a lighter, causing Jones to hide underneath an upturned coffin to avoid the flames, yet Jones was casually walking around in the same place with a flaming torch, with flames dropping off of it??

      2. “Sure that could be created by dedicating a lot of the story to tell why things are as they are before the main story can begin.”

        Taking a cue from Ernest Hemingway, the more you leave out the better the story is, because laying the background in detail like that just amounts to explaining a joke. It should not need explaination – it’s not funny if you don’t get it yourself.

        >”If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.”

        If the implicit part and the assumed scenario doesn’t fundamentally make sense, then the whole story is just bad. The joke cannot be understood and it’s just an exercise in “what if cows could fly? Well, let me tell you…”

        1. “Taking a cue from Ernest Hemingway, the more you leave out the better the story is, because laying the background in detail like that just amounts to explaining a joke. It should not need explaination – it’s not funny if you don’t get it yourself.”

          But then, Douglas Adams was quite entertaining “explaining the joke”!

    4. If I can handwave teleporters on Star Trek, than a little bit of ‘communication is extremely difficult between the two halves’ is nothing.

      I have some criticisms myself over the writing style, but the story actually seems interesting. (So far at least)

    1. Uh, no. Unless you’re referring to the comments in pending, which right now consist of, “Tasteless book, shameless advertising.” and, “What the FUCK SPAM yourself you clickgobbler Goddamn”.

      I just approved the first comment and trashed the second. As an aside, this isn’t ‘native advertising’ or ‘promoted content’ or anything else that is indicative of Hackaday selling out. We don’t do sponsored content. This is just something Adam wanted to write about; we’ve done book reviews before, and we’ve done fiction before (the Martian, notably).

      But you are right. We have another “STEAM fidget spinner” post coming up this afternoon. This is the day Hackaday died. You’re just a few hours early.

    2. I think you should reserve the term “fascist” to those that are indeed fascists. You obviously don’t which make me believe that you are an idiot. The rest of the post including your nosy smiley just reinforces that belief.

    1. I imagine it would work better– no need for an inert gas when you’re in a vacuum. Someone who knows more about welding can feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that.

  4. Why not have an occasional plug for a book (fictional or technical) that might appeal to hackaday types? (whatever they are)

    And kick it off with ‘books every hacker should read/own”, which could be a poll!

    1. Accelerando by Charles Stross. (no affiliation)

      An interesting read that follows three generations of a family and covering the Singularity, Mind Uploading, and interstellar travel. One warning: there’s a scene that involves superglue in the first thirty-some pages that was morally unsavory to me but may be justified under character development. Still worth the read.

  5. Rather than contributing to the blether, I’ll make a recommendation of my own. Coyote by Alan Steele. It’s great stuff, scientifically and mathematically correct to the best of my (admittedly somewhat limited) knowledge, and I actually sort of know the guy who did the illustration of the ship that’s inside the book — his name is Rob Caswell and he’s on DeviantArt. We’ve exchanged Notes there a few times… he’s pretty friendly.

    Bonus recommendation for those who like more militaristic stuff — Dale Brown’s Flight of the Old Dog is military fiction with some sci-fi ornamentation on the side. I got my well-worn copy (printed the year I was born and possibly a first edition) on a lark for all of two quarters at a flea market stand in my little town. I maintain to this day that it was the best book purchase I’ve made. The tale is not 100% realistic if you think about it hard — and there’s one part of the plot that’s explained with a throwaway line at the end, despite being a major mover in certain ways — but it is one book I find hard to put down no matter how many times I read it. Kinda funny, considering I’m actually a diehard pacifist bordering on pinko commie. It kind of helps, I guess, that, despite being military fiction, there’s actually not that much honest-to-goodness fighting in it.

    1. If the Dale Brown book is what I think it is—too lazy to check right now and all my books are either in a pile or in boxes—that’s a good one. That’s the one about a B-52 bomber, yes? Anyhow, I used to read his books quite a bit, but I find his later work tend to rely on “timely sci-fi kits” a little too much for my taste to get the protagonists out of troubles. Quite a few authors have fallen into that particular hole, I think, even ones who aren’t sci-fi writers. It just comes across as a bit of lazy writing to me (i.e., “I can’t think of a clever way to resolve this conundrum and the publisher’s deadline is looming, so just throw a bit of sci-fi at it and call it done”).

      Anyway, I don’t usually read sci-fi, though I did pick up and read The Martian on HaD and XKCD recommendations. (c: May be I’ll pick this up, too.

      1. Yeah, that’s the one (about the B-52) — although a lot of the equipment is original to the plane, it’s got some customizations that, er, come in handy at certain points. I haven’t read it in a while, but I don’t seem to recall too much conveniently-timed sci fi in that one.

        1. I’ll second Flight of the Old Dog. It’s decent Tom Clancy-ish military fiction. It’s the sequels that get increasingly wacky.

          I just read the entirety of The Bridge in the last few hours, and yeah, it’s a bit amateurish and handwavey — Leo’s no Asimov or Bradbury, more on the level of, oh, say, Lucas or Roddenberry — but it’s competently written and a decent story. As for why HaD should review it, well, a lot of us like a bit of goofy sci-fi now and then.

  6. I love how nobody has bothered to mention the (not at all important to the plot, really) time-dilation regulated nuclear reaction powered laser power generator…

  7. At least the plug for the Martian here explained why it would be of interest to hackady readers. Do they wind up sciencing the **** out of some problem? Coming up with new applications for technology? Why is this book particularly apropos for us?

    Implausibles I hope it explains:
    Does it explain why build picture windows on a spaceship? (Or else how would you see things like knife fights through the window. Consider how close you have to be to how big a window to see something in the house nextdoor. Sure, the ships could be only a meter or so appart, but still to see much of a knife fight you probably need a big window.

    Does it explain how they lost knowledge of technology. For a literate society living in a high technology artifact seems implausible.

    1. Read a bit of it. Lots of nonsensical things done with no explanation why.

      People working not way people usually act (against self-interest), with no explanation.
      A weak fool for a leader – okay if others are using him as a puppet (e.g.)

      Sort of like watching a bad movie – an idle exercise in picking out all the errors,
      plot holes, etc. But don’t expect more from it.
      (e.g. Earthquake, 10.0, The Force Awakens – people behaving silly, and physics
      and engineering absurdities).

  8. It doesn’t matter (to me) how great the majority of the book is; if the writer doesn’t know how to end the story, the whole book is a disaster. The first time I encountered this was with the last–appropriately–‘Dune’ book of Herbert. Rowling came close in her last ‘Potter’ books.
    Thanks for the warning, [Adam]. I won’t waste my time.

  9. I read the book too. Even spent the $3 for the Kindle version. Not very well written, but I thought the book had some very neat ideas that I’ve not seen anywhere else, and some ENORMOUS plot twists ditto. Purists who don’t read anything from a lessor light than Clarke or Asimov, relax and enjoy the ride.

    Oh, and that last plot twist comes out of NOWHERE!!! Gotta read Part 2 just to find out why.

    Only one tip to author Petracci: Never start a sentence with “As such.” _NEVER_ again!!!

  10. After this recommendation, I read it online. Liked it enough to buy the paperback version. Yeah, there are some shortcomings (in particular, the stock “main character is just so amazing that he/she breezes through all challenges against them to climb the social ladder despite the odds” thing near the start of the book), but once it gets into the meat of the story, it really does get interesting. A lot of the stuff that flat-out doesn’t make sense ends up being explained, and the fact that it doesn’t make sense becomes multiple plot points. Looking forward to the sequel the author so obviously set up.

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