A dystopian novel is our current Buddy Read.
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
Published 2019, 365 pages
I was surprised at the front of the book to see the author request that the story "remained a bit of a secret between us". Now that I've finished the book, I can understand the request and will absolutely honor it. You should discover the secrets of this book yourself. And I strongly recommend that you do.
This book grabbed me from the first page. And the second page. The apparently oft-quoted phrase is on page one and perfectly sets up the story,
"And 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. If we're not loyal to the things we love, what's the point? That's like not having a memory. That's when we stop being human."
Though the setting isn't vital to the story, it is set in Scotland (where the author lives); first, some tiny islands, then to the mainland. There's some very nice descriptions of nature and setting as Griz, the main character, discovers new territory in his pursuit of the dog thief.
So a favorite dog is stolen. Griz sets off in hot pursuit. What follows is written as sort of a journal; the story follows all the adventures and disasters while trying to retrieve the dog, Jess. Griz takes his other dog Jip along and I have to say, that's one cool dog. Jip is almost as much fun as Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go. What a surprise to find two cool dogs in my recent reads! The pacing and characters here are excellent, hopping from one scary event to the next.
The writing is very engaging. Fletcher uses foreshadowing a lot, as in saying 'that would prove to be a bad decision' or 'if I wasn't so stupid, I could have avoided this disaster', etc. It was a bit overused, but served its purpose. This is not a happy-go-lucky story.
The observations of the "before" society are excellent (and spot on). One of my favorite parts is how Fletcher deals with Griz coming upon things in the 'before' world that he'd never seen. But, he is an avid reader so as he'd describe what he was seeing to himself and try to connect it to something from a book, I would try to guess what it was that he's looking at - like a puzzle! Lots of little jabs at the 'before' people and environmental disasters and pollution they (we) left behind.
"Reading is another way we survive. It helps to know where we came from, how we got here. And most of all, for me, even though these low and empty islands are all I have ever known, when I open the front cover of a new book, it's like a door, and I can travel far away in place and time."
photos by Terrie Purkey, Whistler, BC, Canada (unfortunately not Scotland)
As a passionate animal lover, especially of dogs, I read this book with some trepidation. I admit it made me anxious throughout most of the book worrying about something bad happening to the dogs, the horses, the wolves. So, beware, there are some unpleasant animal moments throughout the story, if, like me, you are sensitive about that.
Because of my unease while reading the book I can’t say I enjoyed it. However, I certainly liked the main character, Griz, and his dogs. But his journey is bleak.
“Hope eventually became just like half the things that had stalked me on my journey across the mainland: not really there at all, just something prowling around me in my mind, distracting me from the darker truth of my situation.”
As Terrie stated in her review, several times Griz wrote comments which warned of bad news coming and made me anxious about reading any further, like these: “All sorts of bad things flowed from that decision, but I still think it was the right one to make, given what I knew at the time.” And, “Looking back on it now, I know I made it (decision) for some of the right reasons, and all the wrong ones.”
Though he's on his own most of the time, Griz runs into an interesting character in John Dark, a female. They have an uneasy relationship at first but learn to co-exist and even come to help each other. Griz's family plays a fairly small part in the story but it does give you background on his life. I'll grant you this, Griz had a lot of pluck as he encountered so many new things along his journey in his determination to rescue Jess.
“To begin with, I found the songs of the different birds was like a tumble of conflicting sounds, none of them particularly loud on their own, but relentless in the way they pecked at your attention from all sides – a coo here, a tweet there and a warble from somewhere else.”
photo by Terrie Purkey