Book Review: A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, by C.A. Fletcher

My name’s Griz. My childhood wasn’t like yours. 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, but we were never lonely on our remote island. We had each other, and our dogs.

Then the thief came.

There may be no law left except what you make of it. But if you steal my dog, you can at least expect me to come after you.

Because if we aren’t loyal to the things we love, what’s the point?

Goodreads

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is a post-apocalyptic novel in which the world’s population has been devastated by The Gelding. Women don’t get pregnant anymore. No more babies. As the older population dies off, there are no new generations to take over. When the book opens, there are only thousands of people left in the world, and they are living in small groups, mostly made up of just family.

Griz’s family lives on an island off the coast of Scotland. Early on the reader learns that Griz’s sister died in a nasty accident, and Griz’s mother is also harmed in the aftermath of that accident to the extent that she cannot speak or function on her own anymore.

But they’re living the life. They’ve adapted to the way the world is and they’re mostly self-sufficient. They do some trading and socializing with one other family that lives on another island nearby (if I remember correctly), but for the most part, they keep to themselves.

Then a stranger shows up (by boat) on their island — which is unsettling since there are so few people left in the world — and says he is there to do some trading. Griz’s family tentatively welcomes him into their home…and then he promptly steals a bunch of their stuff, including one of Griz’s dogs.

And so the adventure begins.

Griz takes off in his boat (with his other dog) to chase down the thief and get his dog back, but because the world is so foreign to Griz, he has no idea what to expect of the outside world. He’s never been to the mainland. He has no map. He has very few supplies. He’s winging it.

No spoilers, so you’ll have to read the rest for yourself if you’re interested in finding out what happens.

I thought this was a cute book. I say “cute,” because it’s definitely not as serious as some of the other post-apocalyptic books I’ve read. Don’t get me wrong — there is some very serious subject matter in the book and a world like Griz’s is not fun and games — but I think Fletcher took a much lighter approach to this book than other post-apocalyptic books I’ve read. And I think that worked well because Griz is so naive about the outside world and what to expect from his travels. Griz really has no clue what anything outside of his island is like. So he’s discovering this new-to-him world and there is a feeling of fascination throughout the book, even when bad things are happening. I think it’s the discovery bit that keeps the book from getting too dark.

I was kind of pissed that Griz took his other dog with him. Look, kid, you’ve already lost one dog, you have NO IDEA what to expect out there, you haven’t even thought about how you’re going to take care of yourself, let alone your other dog. But that was also very realistic, because what teenager wouldn’t just run off without totally thinking through what they are doing? Heh.

Overall, I enjoyed A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World. Was I blown away by it? No. But I’m not a dog person, so I assume I didn’t feel the same connection to Griz that many dog-owning readers did. The book was well-written and the story was pretty good. I particularly liked reading about how the natural environment had taken over with so few people around to screw it up. There wasn’t a ton of character development, which I was slightly disappointed with, but not enough to keep me from finishing the book. I would love to have a whole book about The Gelding while it was taking place…something character-driven about how people are dealing with it physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I think THAT could make a fantastic book.

I think I would recommend this to readers who like lighter post-apocalyptic or dystopian fiction. Those of you who are dog lovers would really get into it, I think.

Have you read A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World? What did you think?

Book Review: The Reapers are the Angels, by Alden Bell

I told sj I was going to read this for Zombruary five years ago…

…and guess what never happened? One, I never got around to reading The Reapers are the Angels. Two, we never read the sequel together. Oops. Heh.

But I read TRatA this year, and I loved it, just like sj said I would. She never steers me wrong.

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself – and keeping her demons inside. She can’t remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

Goodreads

TRatA has the best opening scene I’ve read in a while, and probably the best zombie introduction. When we meet 15-year-old Temple, she’s living in a lighthouse on an island off the coast of Florida. We don’t really get the idea that there has been an apocalypse and that Temple is living there in an attempt to hide or be safe, and it sounds like the ideal life. So relaxing. So beautiful. And then Temple finds a body washed up on shore…and it looks dead…and then it moves. The whole opening scene is great.

I don’t know that I’ve read a zombie book that’s taken place 25 years after the initial infection and meltdown (sj will let me know if I’m wrong). Temple is only 15, so this zombie-infected world is the only one she’s ever known, and she’s had to grow up super fast. She is more introspective, experienced, tough, and resourceful than many adults I know. Her favorite weapon is a gurkha knife. But that made me feel bad for her, too. She’s never had a carefree childhood. She’s never really been able to just chill and be a kid. And her self-analysis is heartbreaking. She doesn’t believe there is anything good in her…she believes she is thoroughly evil and that she has no chance for redemption.

But you guys, Temple calls zombies “meatskins.” MEATSKINS. That might be the best nickname for them I’ve come across, and it’s so accurate.

Oh! And there is another brand of “monster” in this book that I’m not going to give any spoilers about, but they are something else. I thought I knew where the story was going, and then…

Seriously off the rails…in the best, most disturbing way. But you’ll have to read the book to find out what I’m talking about.

And then there’s the man who wants to kill Temple as a matter of revenge, and though he’s meant to be the bad guy, it’s hard to hate him completely. He’s…complicated.

The Reapers are the Angels is another one I highly recommend if you are into zombie fiction. Good story, interesting characters, and it just might hit you right in the feels.

Book Review: Zone One, by Colson Whitehead

Q: What do you get when you cross a literary writer with zombie genre fiction?

A: Zone One.

Zone One is not your typical zombie apocalypse novel. Sure, there are zombies (obvs), and there is the killing of zombies (obvs), but Zone One is more about nostalgia and longing for a city that will never be the same again.

The immediate story takes place over the course of a weekend. Mark Spitz (no, not that Mark Spitz) is a sweeper in post-zombie-apocalypse Manhattan, going from building to building with Omega Unit, exterminating the stragglers that were left behind after the military’s initial sweep to clean up the skels. Being in NYC brings back lots of memories for Mark Spitz, and the bulk of the book is his nostalgia for the old world, and his perceptions of its transformation starting on Last Night.

Zombies are one of two categories in Zone One: skels, which are the typical shambling, chomping zombies; and stragglers, which are the more interesting of the two. Stragglers don’t move. Stragglers don’t bite (or, they haven’t been known to). Stragglers seem to be stuck in a very specific time and place in their minds — like they’re hypnotized — and they end up in places that probably had some meaning to them before they died.

The stragglers posed for a picture and never moved again, trapped in a snapshot of their lives. In their paralysis, they invited a more perplexing variety of abuse. One might draw a Hitler mustache on one, or jab a sponsor cigarette between a straggler’s lips. Administer a wedgie. They didn’t flinch.

You almost feel bad for them. They aren’t dangerous. They don’t react. They are the easiest to kill. Stragglers are the minority. Mark and Omega Unit play “Solve The Straggler” in an attempt to lighten the post-apocalyptic mood.

Mark Spitz’s perceptions of the post-apocalyptic world (and Whitehead’s writing) really make the novel, and Spitz’s perceptions are DEEP. Zone One is less about the zombies and more about a world that when described by Spitz, really isn’t all that different from the world before Last Night. And the only way I know how to talk about Whitehead’s boss writing is by providing quotes. Whenever I think about the way Whitehead writes, I give a contented sigh.

Here are two of my favorite quotes (but the WHOLE BOOK is quotable):

The air filled with buzzing flies the way it had once been filled with the hydraulic whine of buses, the keening of emergency vehicles, strange chants into cell phones, high heels on sidewalk, the vast phantasmagorical orchestra of a living city. They loaded the dead. The rains washed the blood after a time. The New York City sewer system in its bleak centuries had suffered worse.

And later in the book…

It was the sound of the god of death from one of the forgotten religions, the one that got it right, upstaging the pretenders with their billions of duped faithful. Every god ever manufactured by the light of cave fires to explain the thunder or calling forth the fashionable supplications in far-flung temples was the wrong one. He had come around after all this time, preening as he toured the necropolis, his kingdom risen at last.

Sj and I reread this for Zombruary, and we were a *tiny* bit nervous about rereading it. We remembered how much we loved it when we read it six years ago, and there was a small part of us that was afraid it wouldn’t be quite as good as we remembered. We shouldn’t have feared. I loved it as much as the first time I read it, and sj thought it was *better* the second time. That’s high praise.

If you’re into post-apocalyptic fiction, I highly recommend Zone One.