An apocalyptic story, set in a future Great Britain, which is totally intriguing.
Although I read this book some time ago now, it’s stayed with me. It’s classified as Sci-Fi, which I have a bit of a weakness for, although I don’t like all of it. On the whole I enjoy stories of people and their problems set in unusual places and A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World is one such – an apocalyptic story set in a future Great Britain.
C. A. Fletcher is also known as Charlie Fletcher, a screen writer and children’s author. This is his first adult book and the sleeve notes are short and to the point: “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, before all the people went away. But we were never lonely on our remote island. We had each other, and our dogs. Then the thief came.”
Within the first few pages Griz paints us a picture of how this life happened. A century earlier occurred something which became known as ‘The Gelding’. For no reason that anyone could find, people suddenly stopped having children. The last generation grew up, grew old and then there were none left, or almost none. In the last days before the end, the remaining scientists calculated that of the world’s 7.5 billion people about 0.0001% were still fertile. So, worldwide, there would now be maybe 7.000 people left.
This story is told in diary form by Griz, who lives in the Outer Hebrides, on a remote island with its back to the Atlantic. On the island there is Griz, two older siblings, a father, a brain damaged mother, Griz’s two dogs and no-one else. Once there was a sister, who one day as a child, when most of them were away, tried to rescue her kite from a tree growing on the back of the island and, as Griz says, fell out of life. In trying to get to her boat to rescue the child the mother fell and cracked her skull so badly that she is now severely brain damaged.
Griz is young but in this world, there is no such thing as teenagers. You are a child for a while and then you become an adult. Then one day the thief comes, seemingly to trade. He drugs them and takes one of Griz’s dogs – a vanishingly rare bitch. Impetuous Griz jumps into a boat and, accompanied by the other dog, sets off in pursuit. What follows is Griz’s journey across a Britain where no humans exist anymore.
It is an intriguing story. It is not as you might expect, gung-ho action from start to finish. There is certainly lots of excitement, but it is as much a thoughtful description of an empty land. During a century of no people, nature has moved in and left all signs of human habitation almost totally obscured.
In my view
This is a good book. Griz is a good central character, resourceful and brave and with a well-educated mind, from reading books rescued from abandoned homes on other islands. It’s also a pretty grim story. The echoing silence of the empty land almost reaches us, as does the anger, fear and loneliness Griz feels, mixed with a guilty excitement at seeing this new and wondrous world. A world of forests and green spaces that’s so different from Griz’s home on the windswept island.
I liked the way it is written, thoughtful, almost philosophical. At 450 pages it’s a long book but it never feels too long or too laboured. It reminded me of Cormack McCarthy’s The Road, but it is not quite as unrelentingly grim. There is light at the end.
Oh, and be prepared, there is a very big twist at the end! I give it 4-stars.
Review by: Freyja
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