STARRED REVIEW
April 23, 2019

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

By C.A. Fletcher

C.A. Fletcher’s heart- and gut-wrenching tale of a post-apocalyptic world is a minimalistic take on dystopic science fiction, set in a lush, ruggedly overgrown landscape rather than an entirely barren wasteland devoid of hope or comfort. The humans (and their beloved dogs) who remain are willingly isolated and to a point, content to be unaware of what is going on in the modern world.

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C.A. Fletcher’s heart- and gut-wrenching tale of a post-apocalyptic world is a minimalistic take on dystopic science fiction, set in a lush, ruggedly overgrown landscape rather than an entirely barren wasteland devoid of hope or comfort. The humans (and their beloved dogs) who remain are willingly isolated and to a point, content to be unaware of what is going on in the modern world. But curious teenage Griz desires more than the complacent existence in the After—what is beyond Griz’s family’s island dwelling? What’s on the Mainland? And most mysteriously, what happened to all of the dogs from before the Gelding, in which human fertility ceased, and the subsequent “soft apocalypse”?

In A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, Fletcher shows readers that even the softest of apocalypses contain an immense and unforeseeable amount of heartache and loss. This is survivalist science fiction at its rawest, a reminder that when the world as humans know it crumbles, so do their way of life, their laws, their traditions and their priorities. When the mysterious and slightly off-putting stranger Brand arrives on Griz’s island in a boat with foreboding red sails, we feel as naïve, hopeful and dewy-eyed as the imaginative teen. Soon, Griz listens to Brand’s tales of distant lands, diverse peoples and the last few loyal canine heroes in existence. But like his aptly-named dog companion, the cunning Saga, Brand is soon revealed to be a weaver of tall tales and an ill-intentioned “trader” who brings cruelty and deceit from the Mainland into Griz’s home. When Brand drugs Griz’s family and commandeers their supplies, and even one of Griz’s beloved dogs, Jess, Griz has no choice but to follow him into uncharted waters and face whatever challenges may arise.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World takes a memorable journey of loyalty and love and transforms it into an unraveling mystery of self-discovery and exploration. The threadbare but essential cast includes Griz, determined teen rescuer; Jip, faithful canine companion and brother to Jess; Griz’s well-intentioned but protective father, Abe; Griz’s mentally-absent Mum; and Brand, sly manipulator of words, emotions and entire lives. From the moment that Brand steals Griz’s resources, the safety of the family and Jess, Griz is thrust into the animalistic nature of post-apocalyptic humans and wild canine foes, and their cruelty as described by Fletcher resonates with some very important contemporary concerns. But never fear—Fletcher promises on the back jacket that no dogs will be harmed in the novel.

Fueled by a fierce loyalty to one’s pack and the newfound fire of vengeance, Griz and Jip embark on their rescue mission, trailing Brand through treacherous and eerie lands, experience a return to humanity at its most primitive, something that Griz once joked about (“going a’viking” for resources and scavenged materials). Along the way, they encounter friends and foes alike—the rigid and sailor-mouthed “John Dark,” a battle-weary French woman, a cult of Before traditionalists known as the Conservators (or “Cons”), the mysterious Freemen, and, inevitably, the scoundrel Brand. Like the family's canine friends, Griz must rely on the basest of animal instincts to decide who to trust and when to flee or fight back.

Young Griz is an endearing narrator, whose humanity transcends the gloom and doom of Fletcher’s world. Though Griz changes to reflect the evil, anger, destruction and deception in the world, he notices things that bring joy in their own dilapidated, creepy ways—ruins of museums, cozy abandoned homes, fossils of books and music—and his mature worldview, despite his age, is refreshing and reassuring. Griz’s intrinsic connection to and empathy toward Jess and Jip, especially the way they conversationally speak to the dogs and treat them like family, is particularly lovable. Griz must resist succumbing to his own revenge fantasy, and questions if the right species survived, or if the monsters of the apocalypse really are all extinct. Griz’s mission reminds us that life should be appreciated and treasured in the moment. This is the story of trust and loyalty within a family, and finding your own pack—even if they’re different from the pack you were born into.

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A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

By C.A. Fletcher
Orbit
ISBN 9780316449458

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