A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
Science Fiction | Post-apocalyptic
Published by Orbit
Released April 23, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
This book was a rollercoaster of emotions for me. There were times when I loved this book and plenty of other times when I absolutely hated it. How I felt about this book essentially looked like this:
Fun story: my brother texted me when I was about 50% through with the book to ask me what I thought of it. I told him that it was fine, nothing special. Then, around 10pm the same day, I texted him again to tell him that I changed my mind and I absolutely hated the book. Finally, the following morning, after I had finished the book, I once again sent him a message, this time stating that I actually ended up enjoying it.
I can’t remember the last time my mind changed so frequently while reading a book.
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is set in a post-apocalyptic world after most of the population has died off after some unknown event caused women to stop giving birth.
The story is told from the point-of-view of Griz, a teenager who lives with their family on an island near what is left of the British Isles. One day a traveling merchant shows up and entices them all with tales of other survivors and places he’s seen on his travels. On the traveler’s final night there, however, he slips something into their food and steals one of the family’s dogs. Griz wakes up just in time to see the traveler’s ship rounding the corner of the island, and Griz decides to chase after him in order to get the dog back.
I’ve mentioned time and time again on Read Yourself Happy that my favorite fictional genre is post-apocalyptic. I’m so intrigued by stories about the end of the world and how the remaining population would survive. This book has been on my radar for at least six months when I started seeing bloggers receive ARCs of it. I’ve always been attracted to books with a nearly-empty world as its setting.
The first thing about this novel that I want to talk about is the pacing. I found that I had to push myself through the book, which is rare for a post-apocalyptic story. This book could have been about fifty pages shorter with no impact on the story. For the majority of the book, the only character we’re dealing with is Griz, and that doesn’t always work. Griz does encounter a few people during the journey, but the book is basically like a post-apocalyptic Castaway.
Another aspect of the book that I wasn’t crazy about was the character’s voice. I don’t think we’re ever explicitly told Griz’s age, but it reads as though we’re dealing with a teenager. The book is told in a diary format, and while the way Griz writes about the journey is fine, I just was not a fan of the tone or voice of the character.
At one point Griz meets a female traveler who speaks French, and I loved the entire section about their travels together. They have to learn how to communicate with hand signals, broken words, and an English-French dictionary. This section was definitely my favorite of the book and I loved their relationship with one another.
One of the things that I did not like about this novel was the way C.A. Fletcher writes foreshadowing. Good foreshadowing should be discreet, something we barely notice. However, in this book, there are a lot of sentences along the line of “at that time I didn’t know [blank] would be my downfall.” The foreshadowing was so obvious that it bored me. When the author is constantly telling us that bad things are going to happen, it takes something away from the storytelling.
In terms of the novel’s post-apocalyptic setting that C.A. Fletcher does well is with Griz’s sense of wonder in the old world. We’re never explicitly told what year this novel is set in, but as the buildings are crumbling and nature is overtaking the cities, it feels at least 100 years into the future, if not more. Griz’s fascination with the old world and, especially, trying to understand what a populated world would have been like were very well done. Setting the world so far in the future was a great choice.
“When the world was full, did everyone smell the same? Or were you all distinct from one another? I can see from the old pictures what a crowd looked like, but I don’t know what it smelled like. Or sounded like even. That’s something I often wonder about. Did all the voices become one big sound, the way the individual clink of pebbles on a stony beach adds up to a roar and a thump in the waves? That’s what I imagine it was like, otherwise all those millions of voices being heard and distinct from one another at the same time would have run you mad.”
I don’t write to spoil the story for anyone, but there are some very surprising twists at the end of the novel. I wasn’t sure exactly how I felt about some of the twists until I actually finished the novel and could reflect on the novel as a whole. In fact, one of the biggest twists towards the end is what prompted me to tell my brother that I hated the book.
Ultimately, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is a book about truth and loyalty. It’s worth a read if you are a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, but I wouldn’t expect a masterpiece going into it. There are a lot of problems, such as the pacing and density of the novel, but overall it was worth the effort.