The Blurb On The Back:
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 pay 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.
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’re not loyal to the things we love, what’s the point?
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
It’s over 100 years in the future. The world, as we know it, has ended. At some point the population largely stopped having children in an event known as The Gelding and the world began to age, leading to The Exchange, after which the remaining countries turned inwards into Convulsion, Hunger and inevitable decline.
Griz lives on an island in the Outer Hebrides with his parents, his brother Ferg, his sister Bar and his two dogs Jip and Jess. His mother suffered a brain injury shortly after his sister Joy died in an accident and as a result, can’t speak or look after herself properly but the family are happy and surviving, occasionally trading with a family on one of the other islands and scavenging (or “viking”) on the mainland.
One day, a red haired, red-bearded man called Brand arrives by ship on their island. He says that he’s come to trade and can give Griz’s father a part he needs to make a turbine work. He has good stories of travel to foreign lands and goods that Griz and his family have never seen before but after a night of eating and drinking and sharing, Griz wakes up to find that Brand has gone and so has Griz’s dog, Jess.
So Griz sets off with Jip to get Jess back – whatever it takes …
C. A. Fletcher’s debut novel is an engrossing SF post-apocalyptic story that’s low on complicated plot and which telegraphs its twists and punches with some heavy-handed foreshadowing but is rich in atmosphere – specifically Fletcher’s vision of a decaying Britain returning to nature – and I liked Griz with his curiosity, determination and love of his dog and cared about what happens to him.
The main reason to read this book is Fletcher’s vision of post-apocalyptic Britain. The way he describes the slow decay of cities and structures is rich and evocative and also quite sinister both through the way nature is slowly taking over and through Griz’s occasional discoveries of bodies and skeletons of people who gave up. What works particularly well is how Griz links what he sees to his thoughts about what life must have been like before everything went to hell (thoughts that are fuelled by the mystery over some of the events thanks to information being lost).
Fletcher uses the literary device of having Griz address his thoughts to a photograph he found. Although it’s a bit artificial, I thought it worked well in terms of focusing and framing Griz’s thoughts and I also enjoyed the weird connection that develops between Griz and the person in that photograph. Unfortunately Fletcher re-uses the ‘found item’ device a couple of times in the book to more contrived effect, which ties in with my other main criticism of the plot in that Fletcher relies very heavily on foreshadowing within the book with Griz mentioning something and the highlighting that something bad or important is going to happen in connection with it. For me, given that the plot is quite thin anyway, it really robbed what little plot there is of any meaningful tension, which was a shame. There were some interesting plot developments in the story, but I did guess them too far in advance, while the final section was a bit stereotypical in terms of the world building (in that I’ve seen it done dozens of times before and I found it thin here compared to the richness of the earlier scenes) and I also wasn’t completely sure what Fletcher was trying to achieve with a revelation at the end.
I really did like Griz as a character though. Thoughtful but impetuous, he’s a survivor and I completely believed in his relationship and devotion to his dogs (and I did like the way Fletcher portrays Jip as a spirited animal devoted to his master).
My criticisms aside, I thought this was a strong debut novel and I was completely engrossed in it from beginning to end and will definitely check out what Fletcher does next.
A BOY AND HIS DOG AT THE END OF THE WORLD was released in the United Kingdom on 25th April 2019. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.