Several months ago I got a sneak peek at Steven Boyett’s newest novel, Mortality Bridge, and I was excited but also a little apprehensive. Excited because I’ve long admired Steven as a writer — he wrote a book as a teenager (Ariel) that most people would have killed to have been able to write at twice that age (or heck, at any age) — but apprehensive because Mortality Bridge was a rock and roll fantasy story, and I’ve read enough of those to know that “rock and roll fantasy” is an easy target to aim for, and then to miss, widely, failing both components miserably.
And then I started reading and realized that my apprehension was misplaced. Mortality Bridge has rock and roll in it (in the form of Niko, a musician who signed a monkey’s paw of a contract in exchange for fame) and it has fantasy in it (in the form of a journey into Hell), but the book isn’t about either. It’s about other things entirely — love, regret, and redemption among them — and that makes the difference. Also to the point, Steven’s natural facility for writing spookily well has been tempered by the fact he’s a couple decades on from being that hotshot teen; he’s lived enough that when he writes about love, regret and redemption, you get the idea he’s not writing from theory. I don’t expect Mortality Bridge is autobiographical in any real sense, but it’s a book of someone who’s been around the block, and down a couple of the less fun alleys on that block as well.
I won’t go into the overall plot the story except to say that you’ve seen elements of it before, and that’s sort of the point — the difference, both for Niko as a character and for the reader, lies in the details. Steve does a really excellent job walking a line between melancholy and absurdity, between horror and humor and between the things you think you’re going to experience here and the things he surprises you with. Even with my apprehension I knew I was probably going to like this book. I wasn’t expecting how much it affected me.
Steve will be on Whatever in July as part of the Big Idea, to talk to you a little about Mortality Bridge, but I wanted to get my own personal recommendation out there first. I happily gave a blurb to the book, which reads: “Luminously tragic, darkly funny, and deeply moving, all in turns and sometimes all at once. Boyett is one of the very few writers who will make you eager to go into Hell, and not worry about whether you return.” It’s also been glowingly reviewed by Publishers Weekly, which gave it a starred review and noted, “Through unusual turns of phrase, heart-rending introspection, and mythic tone, Boyett explores themes of betrayal, redemption, and personal sacrifice in a tortured landscape of bedlam and pandemonium.” So it’s not just me who likes it.
Mortality Bridge is out now, available as a signed, limited edition from Subterranean Press, of which 750 copies are available. It’s possible that in the future other editions might exist, but right now, this limited edition is it. I have a copy and as with nearly all SubPress books, it looks fantastic. At $40, it’s not cheap, but I guarantee you it’s money well spent, both for the story and the physical book itself.
In short: this is the good stuff, folks. Don’t miss out.
(Update: Steve notes that sample chapters are available at the Mortality Bridge Web site.)