A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World


C. A. Fletcher


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

December 19, 2019

Boy and his Dog at the End of the World is set in the near future, but it is a future where human civilization has vanished because 99% of humanity itself has vanished. It seems that humanity suddenly became sterile, in an event called the Gelding. This catastrophe is not really explain, the reader has to accept that it has happened. Thus Griz, a lad growing up with his isolated family on a lonely island off of the coast of Scotland, has almost never seen another human outside of his immediate family. Then one day a lone trader sails to their island, a man named Brand who brings valuable merchandise. But Brand is not a trustworthy man; he steals from Griz's family and sails off - and Brand takes with him one of Griz's beloved dogs, a terrier named Jess. Outraged by the theft, Griz jumps into his own boat and sets off in furious pursuit, bringing along his other dog, Jip. Most of the novel describes this long chase, it gives the author a way to give us a tour of the "After Man" world.

Griz pursues Brand across a wild landscape. There are still homes and roads, but everything is quickly falling to ruin. Despite Griz's urgency, he can't help but take a few side trips to explore the strange marvels he is seeing. Naturally, this leads to some mishaps.

The story we read has been written in a journal by Griz. We see the post-apocalyptic world through his fresh eyes - as Griz tours the ruins of our civilization, he speculates about how humanity used to live. This allows the author to insert some commentary about our current lifestyles.

Can there be too much foreshadowing? C. A. Fletcher loves foreshadowing. Griz is always writing stuff in his journal about how terrible events happened, about how the mistakes he made led to tragedy, tragedy the reader is not yet aware of, but now anticipates. There is a lot of tension in this novel; Griz keeps ending up in dire situations. Griz is admirably resiliant and tough, but the world is dangerous place. If a chapter doesn't end with Griz in mortal peril, then the chapter is likely to end with Griz writing about some awful fate that befell him. You can't help but stay up a little later to read another chapter. Or two.

I did have a couple of questions about events in this book. On the first night of his chase, Griz comes upon Brand's boat lying in anchor in the bay of a small island. All Griz had to do was pull up the anchor, and tow Brand's boat away, leaving him stranded on the island. Griz could then easily return with reinforcements (his family) and demand that the thieving Brand return the dog Jess. Stranded on the island, Brand would have been forced to agree. But I guess if Griz had done this obvious thing, there wouldn't have been much of a story.

One thing that bothered me is the wolf attack. There are no wolves in Scotland now. Even if every human vanished, there still wouldn't be any wolves in Scotland. Wolves don't spontaneously generate. Also, the land is teeming with sheep, deer and cattle. Wolves have plenty to eat, there is no reason for them to attack dangerous humans. I did not like this plot point.

There is hints of a Dyson society, but what exactly this mysterious group was doing is not explained well. Apparently, they died of the plague. But can the plague spread when humanities numbers are so sparse? I thought infections required a certain size of population to spread.

At the end of the novel there are some plot twists. Both are surprises, but one felt contrived. It seemed quite unlikely, and also unnecessary to the story. It is there simply for the sake of surprising the reader, but it felt inauthentic to me. The other surprise is very good, and it adds the drama of the last scenes. But I wish there had been a better explanation of how it was possible in the first place. I don't want to write a spoiler to explain more.

This is well written book, and dog lovers will presumably enjoy it even more. Recommended reading - it is hard to put down!