Back in December I subscribed to Bridger: A Dystopian Serial – a novel told in serial format with each chapter delivered to my email inbox every few days. The story is by Manitoban author, Geralyn Wichers. You can find out more, catch up on missed episodes, and subscribe here.
This morning Episode 8 was delivered to my inbox and I felt I now had enough of the story to voice an early opinion on it.
First, Ms. Wichers’ writing style does not disappoint. I’ve read three of her four earlier works (and the fourth is on my TBR list) and she is perhaps my favourite local author. I rank her among my all-time favourites as well. She has a knack for natural, complex, characters and builds backstory gradually, letting the reader put the pieces together.
Second, Ms. Wicher’s has created an interesting scenario. The world is at war, split along very distinct geographic lines. Her North American characters show a casual dislike of their “enemies” that sounds a lot like our modern day racism, and racism of decades past. The war is a very real and active event. Bridger takes place in Alaska and Episode 8 opens with smoky skies – Tokyo is burning across the sea. She’s taken what might have been a pretty standard futuristic war story and added her own flair – the main character, Charlene “Char” Thompson finds a traveler in the snow, a traveler from another planet.
Thus the plot is set up. Char is a former soldier now working as a private security contractor. Her ex-husband Seth is working at the same base she is as the medical doctor. There is an alien and he claims there is a portal nearby to another world. With resources on this futuristic Earth being depleted by high populations and a seemingly endless war, the possibility of travelling quickly and painlessly to another world to harvest resources sounds like a war-winning idea to the head of the Alaska base.
And that’s where we are. The first 8 episodes introduce us to the base, to the complex history of Char and Seth’s relationship, to the alien, and to the minor characters who fill out this adventure. We see that Venn (the alien) has a complex home life eerily similar to Char and Seth’s. And we’ve already come face-to-face of the might-makes-right attitude of the army.
I’ll admit, it took me most of these 8 episodes to get into the story. The first chapter is good, don’t get me wrong, but the length of the chapters is short and you have to wait. I read Stephen King’s “The Green Mile” in the original serial format and you had to wait months between installments – but each installment was a novella. With Bridger, you only have to wait 2-3 days for the next installment, but each installment is only a single chapter, a few thousand words. It’s challenging to completely hook every reader by the end of the first chapter without dumping character information on them. Ms. Wichers chose to stick to her distinctive slow-build style, giving readers lots of excitement, cliff-hangers, and questions along the way, and it’s paying off. I get to the end of each episode eager for more and I look forward to checking my emails and finding a new Bridger waiting for me.
We’re only 8 episodes in at this point so if you haven’t heard of it, it’s easy to get caught up. I don’t know how long this serial is going to be, but I’m looking forward to weeks of entertainment, delivered in bite-sized pieces to my inbox. There’s something nice about serials, how they force you to slow down and think about each chapter as you wait for the next. There’s something fun about being left to wonder, at least for a little bit.
The only down-side, aside from how short the episodes are, is that Bridger is digital-only at this point. Whether Ms. Wichers plans to release a paperback version later or not I don’t know. I do know some of my friends don’t like reading on the screen though. If you’re one of those people you may be out of luck with this thrilling tale.
If you don’t mind reading on the screen and you enjoy a thoughtful, well-paced sci-fi with genuine, complex characters, take a chance on Bridger. It’s free, it shows up in your inbox (and so far Ms. Wichers has sent no spam, just great writing), and it only takes a few minutes every few days to stay caught up!