When he was 13, Charlie Wilson’s (of Charlie Wilson’s war fame) neighbor killed his dog. Wilson retaliated first by setting his garden on fire, then by driving enough voters to the polls next election to get his neighbor kicked off the city council. The protagonist, main character, and narrator of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is Griz. Griz, like Charlie Wilson, knows that a man messing with your dog can call for extreme measures.
Griz lives at the end of the world. An event occurred that nobody really understands—the “Gelding”—and the vast majority of human beings were no longer able to have children. With only a tiny, tiny percentage (like 0.0001 percent tiny) of people still able to have children, the population of the Earth dropped off a cliff. The story takes place a few generations after. So Griz can say that, “In my whole life, I haven’t met enough people to make up two teams for a game of football.” He estimates there are maybe 10,000 people left alive on the Earth. But this isn’t one of those fiery apocalypses. Griz and his family are able to live a nice life on some islands off of Great Britain, only maintaining regular contact with one other family. But the excitement of a visiting traveler who comes bearing stories and offers of trade ends in misery when the traveler poisons Griz’s family and steals his dog.
“There may be no law left except what you make it, but if you steal my dog, you can at least expect me to come after you.”
There is a lot to like here. This is a great dog book. The emotional beats and oh so rare human interactions are poignant and rich. Literary merit notwithstanding, Fletcher’s story is never boring. I particularly loved this particular post-apocalyptic world. What would happen if we just . . . disappeared? That isn’t quite what happened here. The “Busters” had a long time to live with the knowledge that they wouldn’t leave much behind. They reacted in different ways, but some took steps to prepare for a world empty of people as best they could. So the world sits empty, but nature is in constant movement.
Nature will take a building down if you give it enough time. The rain gets in, the cold turns water to ice in the winter, the ice swells the building cracks and then seeds sprout in the cracks in the spring and all you have to do is wait for the roots to push the walls and the roofs further apart to let in more seeds and rain and ice and eventually things fall apart just as surely here on the mainland as out of the islands.
I love this. It’s so different from what I’m used to, but Fletcher takes such great care with it. Griz has a lot of knowledge, although he and his family are always engaging in what he calls “Liebowitzing,” trying to save knowledge, looking for practical books that may save them. Griz, though, likes the books with stories in them. Although to Griz a crowd of people is just as fantastical as a dragon. All those stories give Griz a lot of knowledge, but Griz will learn that seeing something isn’t the same as reading about it.
Griz narrates the story. It is structured as Griz’s journal entries, talking to the person in a photograph he found. Because Griz is in the future, talking about the past, Fletcher is free to drop little bits of foreshadowing. These can enhance a story. In fact, I would like to see more of this. The rise of 3rd-person limited POVs in SF means you rarely see it these days. But here lies my one really issue with the book. Fletcher leans too hard on this storytelling tool, and in general leans too hard on our emotions. I wound up walking away thinking Fletcher set out to tell a certain kind of story but wasn’t willing to commit to it. It wound up a serious mar on a story I otherwise loved. Less would have gone further.
4 of 5 Stars.
You can buy A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World at Amazon. It is just $4.99 on Kindle as I write this.