Synopsis: My name’s Griz. I’ve never been to school, I’ve never had friends, 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. He told stories of the deserted towns and cities beyond our horizons. I liked him – until I woke to find he had stolen my dog. So I chased him out into the ruins of the world. I just want to get my dog back, but I found more than I ever imagined was possible. More about how the world ended. More about what my family’s real story is. More about what really matters.
The most haunting post-apocalyptic novels are those that are rooted in realism, foretelling human extinction at the hands of climate change, nuclear war, or in this case, mass-infertility on a global level. “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” tells of a slow-burner of an apocalypse where the majority of the human race were unable to produce children, and our species has long since become near-extinct. As a result, nature has risen up to reclaim the remains of our world, and C.A. Fletcher fills his novel with some wonderfully evocative visuals of locations such as Blackpool Pleasure Beach, desolate and overgrown. With most dystopian novels set in the United States, it was refreshing to read about recognisable English landmarks that had become eroded over centuries – even more refreshing was the writer’s decision to set the story in the North, and out of London – another area overused in post-apocalyptic fiction.
Written as a memoir, the novel allows readers to immediately establish a bond with the lead character, Griz, as he explains the status-quo of this bold, new world and his strong relationship with his family and his dogs. This dedication to protecting what remains is what drives the narrative as one of his dogs is stolen by a travelling trader, and Griz instinctively chases the thief from his home in the Outer Hebrides to the mainland of the United Kingdom. What follows is a dazzlingly beautiful odyssey through the remnants of our civilisation that grips the reader throughout. C.A Fletcher paints such a vivid picture of this forgotten world – particularly the section of the book set within the ruins of Blackpool – that it leaps off the page and into the mind’s eye. At times, it reminded me of the awe I felt when playing the videogame The Last of Us, and some of the set-pieces as Ellie and Joel trekked across an overgrown and abandoned America.
Griz is a brilliant protagonist – brave, loyal and eager to learn – and its genuinely heartwarming to read his thoughts about how we lived our life. The book itself is written to a photo of a boy he once found, making it seem like he is writing directly us – the people of his past. It is an effective narrative technique, and it also allows him to foreshadow events and point out upcoming tragedies – of which there are many. One sequence midway through the book was so sad that I had vicious flashbacks of that horrible moment in The Never-Ending Story where the horse drowns in the quicksand. That still traumatises me, and this sequence was almost as bad. In his foreword, Fletcher explicitly asks readers (and reviewers) to avoid spoiling moments from Griz’s journey – and I will respect that request as the book deserves to be experienced exactly as I did – with all the ups-and-downs and the shocks and twists intact. It is a brutal book at times, but also a joyous one.
I absolutely loved this book from start to finish, and I was genuinely sad to come to the end. Fletcher plays with reader’s expectations perfectly throughout the book, making them question motivations and behaviours of characters all the time. I felt like a plaything in the author’s hands, as his prodded at me with each subsequent shock reveal. My only real criticism came from the use of phonetic French midway through the book, which relied on two things – one: me being able to translate the phonetic French to real French and two: me being able to speak French. Luckily, it wasn’t an essential element to the story but I did spend a fair bit of time scratching my head over some of the sentences – which I guess put me in the same position as the characters in the book. That said, everything else about this novel was perfect. The characters were fantastic, the relationships were believable and were the emotional core that the whole novel was build upon. I was invested in Griz’s journey so much, and enjoyed the way that the memoir format felt like he was telling his story to me directly.
Nothing short of incredible, “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” is one of the finest examples of dystopian fiction that I have ever read. I cannot recommend this book enough, and I will definitely be on the lookout for more books from C.A. Fletcher. It is one of those books you need to experience now before it blows up and everyone is talking about it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got picked up by Netflix or a film studio in the very near-future. Go pick up a copy, you won’t be disappointed!