“A Boy and His Dog at The End of The World” by C. A. Fletcher—unrelated to Harlan Ellison’s “A Boy and His Dog” and its famous film adaptation—is the story of young Griz, who lives with his family on a Scottish island in a post-apocalyptic world. In this case, the apocalypse was sterility: mankind starts reproducing less and less frequently until only a few pockets of people are left, much fewer than in your typical post-apocalyptic tale. Sensitive but tough Griz devours books and any other relics from the past he can find, living a hard-working but largely peaceful life with his family, except for the death of a sister.
Then charismatic con artist Brand arrives on his boat and robs them, kidnapping one of Griz’s beloved dogs, Jess. Dogs are very important in this world for their hunting skills, but for Griz, they’re also family members. Impulsively, he takes off after Brand in one of the family boats, alone except for his other dog Jip, leaving behind the world that he knows. Griz’s survival skills are super impressive, but he also, realistically, injures himself severely and makes mistakes that set you on the edge of your seat, in fear of what might happen to him (and wonderful Jip!) next. I felt like a mother watching her teenage son nearly kill himself over and over, so my heart was in my throat for a lot of the story.
Fletcher’s description is strong and we see the strange world unfold around Griz like a fantasy kingdom. Especially when he arrives at a dilapidated pier with the remnants of a carnival and he climbs the ferris wheel to look out at the view. (And discovers a skeleton in one of the ferris wheel cars.) One of the things I liked was that there really are hardly any people left in this world, as opposed to your standard roving gangs and despotic enclaves. Most of Griz’s journey is spent alone and among the elements, except for the fiesty French woman who calls herself “John Dark” (Jean d’Arc/Joan of Arc) with whom he travels for a while. Their stand-off in an old stadium with a pack of wolves is riveting.
When Griz finally does encounter a settled group of survivors, one that has a connection to both Brand and John Dark, everything he thinks he knows is flipped onto its head. There is one major post-apocalyptic story cliche here, but it’s handled very well and what happens next is rather unpredictable and satisfying. I highly recommend this book to adults and to teen readers who don’t require super-fast pacing and love stories. It’s an excellent adventure and coming-of-age tale.