Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

When people stop reproducing, the population got older and older, until there was barely anyone left. A few outliers continued to have babies, living in isolated corners of the world. Griz's family is one such group. When one of their dogs is stolen, Griz sets off without thinking to bring back Jess.

We're out here on the wrong side of a dying world trying to piece together the story of what's happened from the torn fragments that we can only snatch at as they flutter past us in the wind.

By removing humans with a whimper, rather than a bang, it is easier to create a low-conflict world in which to explore what Britain looks like without us. I loved the familiar locations made unfamiliar through decades of neglect. The story is told through Griz's journal, writing to a person from the past who lived in the world before The Gelding. I liked the references to classic post-apocalyptic fiction and you can tell the author is a fan of this sub-genre. And I do agree with Griz's view of The Road.

Griz's journey starts in the Uists, two islands off the west coast of Scotland, but continues south east, via Blackpool's ruined amusements and Birmingham's concrete bridges of wonder. It's a reminder how we take things for granted, how Griz sees things for the first time and thinks how amazing they are, when they might be things we use every day but ignore.

Of course, Griz is not the only person roaming Britain. There's the dog thief for starters, and others who are doing what they can to survive. Not everyone left will speak the same language, and some will have nefarious plans to get the world back on track. But mostly, Britain is empty and being reclaimed by nature.

You might wonder why dogs are so valuable when they must be roaming free in packs by now? But something also happened to the dogs, maybe the same as humans or maybe humans did it to the dogs. Breeding bitches are rare, and so worth stealing. Griz does take Jip on the journey, their male dog, who proves how good a companion a dog can be to a human living wild. That's why we domesticated them in the first place. The theft of Jess is somewhat of a foreshadow too.

If we're not loyal to the things we love, what's the point? That's like not having a memory. That's when we stop being human.

It's a book that purposefully leads the reader astray. I can see it an experiment to see what the reader will assume, but I'm not convinced that works when you are told what to think in the first place. Would I have viewed things differently had I been told something from the outset? I'm not so sure for myself, but then again I do know that people make certain judgements.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is published by Orbit and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 25th April 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

ATY: 11. A book related to one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals

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