A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher

AboyA Boy and His Dog is one of those books that surpassed my expectations.  This is a well written story that conjures up a remarkable sense of tension but more than that, as a reader who has read plenty of post apocalyptic books it felt refreshingly different.

Why did this feel so original to me.  Well, firstly the nature of the adventure.  This is a very personal endeavour by a young character determined to retrieve a much loved pet.  He’s not going off to search for bounty, he’s not trying to find a solution to world problems, he’s not on the run from a pack of savages.  This is the case of a knee jerk reaction that could quite simply go right or wrong.  Secondly, this isn’t a story packed with zombies, there are no people with special powers caused as a result of some sort of nuclear fallout and it doesn’t involve huge swathes of people who have turned into cannibals.  This story has a much more personal feel and that’s an aspect that I really enjoyed.

I won’t discuss the world building too deeply.  People have basically lost the ability to reproduce and each successive generation having virtually died childless the human race almost came to extinction. A few small pockets of people remain – living almost in isolation and without the benefit of modern technology.  I like this aspect of the story and think it’s a great device because all the horror and the shedding of civility has been played out in the earlier years prior to this story.  What we now find instead is a story of people trying to survive, trying to come together occasionally to make alliances and attempting to hold on to the last hope of survival for the human race.

The story is told by Griz in the form of a journal.  This is a lovely way of telling the story, not only does Griz have a wonderful voice but this form of narration allows some introspection which wouldn’t take place if we were simply inside his head following events as they take place.  Griz and his family live on a small island off the coast of Scotland.  They have the use of a number of boats retrieved before everything fell completely into ruin and with a combination of fishing and foraging they manage to eek out a living.  One day a stranger approaches the island, his small boat immediately identifiable on the horizon by it’s unusual red sail.  Brand is a rather larger than life character, full of easy smiles and confidence.  He wants to trade with Griz’s family but makes a show of breaking bread first.  Come the morning and that distinctive red sail is sailing away from the island and one of Griz’s dog’s is missing.

I loved what happens next.  Griz, with no plan, no thought other than going after Brand and retrieving his dog Jess, jumps aboard his own boat and sails off.  These actions feel real. Griz, put simply, reacts, maybe not in the best way but certainly one that rings true.  There is no forward thinking and this is perhaps as well because as a young adult Griz has little chance of a one to one test of strength with Brand.  Basically, mistakes are made, regretted and made again!

Now begins the adventure.  I won’t elaborate further though because there are a few twists to this story, that I certainly didn’t see coming and don’t want to hint at here.  You’re on your own I’m afraid.

Another aspect that is really well done here and just lovely to read about is Griz’s simple wonder and amazement whenever he comes across something unusual or never before seen.  And you have to remember that he’s seen very little.  Eating a peach – who knew that finding ripe peaches could be such a joy.  It makes you reflect on all the things you take for granted.  There’s such a simplicity to life in this world that the smallest things can create joy and wonder.  Of course there are dangers too.  Not so much in the usual way you would expect from a post apocalyptic style book but nonetheless just as life threatening.  Nature once again holds sway, buildings have become crumbling ruins, roads and infrastructure have been invaded by trees and plants and wrecks and ruins can be difficult to navigate and often hold unexpected and nasty surprises.

There’s a loneliness here.  Griz isn’t used to being without his family and to an extent regrets some of his hasty decisions but his other dog keeps the lack of secondary characters from becoming too unbearable.  Jip is a great little character in himself.  A feisty terrier, really chipper and curious.  He keeps Griz and the reader in high spirits, always chasing rabbits and suffering alongside Griz whenever he’s feeling low.  Thankfully,  just as the tale was poised on the brink of maybe becoming too much of a one man story things changed.

I don’t really have any criticisms.  The author did a great job with the pacing and tension, just pulling things back from the edge whenever they started to suffer a little. Maybe one aspect of the ending was a little unexpected – not necessarily in a bad way but at the same time not a direction I was expecting.  There was also a tiny bit of a rushed feeling but this didn’t spoil the read for me at all.

At the end of the day I think A Boy and His Dog has all the signs of becoming a much loved book.  The age of Griz and the whole adventure feel will hold an appeal for many.  For older readers it will probably have a nostalgic feel from their youth when they thought they were invincible (or more to the point didn’t always consider the consequences), for younger readers it’s a great introduction to this style of story.  It has a young protagonist who is absolutely determined to win the day and it’s a book that is packed with emotion.  It made me want to cry at one point, it made my jaw drop with surprise at another and it had a conclusion that I just couldn’t have imagined. Now, just to be clear, there are a few sections of the book that are a little darker with some slightly unsavoury characters but this isn’t the overpowering feeling of the book.

If you think of the isolation of The Road, the great narrative voice of The Girl With All the Gifts and then combine them into an adventure without bucket loads of bloodshed, fighting and gore and you will almost have the beginnings of understanding where this book is coming from.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

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#RRSciFiMonth : Can’t Wait Wednesday : A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher

ScifiMonth

I’m combining today’s Can’t Wait Wednesday with Sci-fi month, an event being hosted by One More and  Dear Geek Place (check out the #RRSciFiMonth hashtag to keep uptodate)

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Can’t Wait Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher

AboyWhen a beloved family dog is stolen, one teen sets out on a life-changing journey through the ruins of our world to bring her back in this fiercely compelling tale of survival, courage, and hope perfect for readers of Station Eleven and The Girl With All the Gifts.

My name’s Griz. I’ve never been to school, I’ve never had friends, and in my whole life I’ve not met enough people to play a game of football.

My parents told me how crowded the world used to be, but we were never lonely on our remote island. We had each other, and our dogs.

Then the thief came.

There may be no law left except what you make of it. But if you steal my dog, you can at least expect me to come after you.

Because if we aren’t loyal to the things we love, what’s the point?

Due for publication April 2019