It’s the end of the world as we know it; humanity is dying out with a population that has dwindled to only a few thousand people. And yet for some this is the only world they have ever known, including the protagonist of C.A.Fletcher’s new novel, Griz. A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World can be called a dystopian novel but it is so much more than that; it is a cautionary tale that is getting more and more relevant in our present world but it is also a quiet celebration of humanity in all its glory and demise.
The novel is told from the point of view of young Griz who lives with his family on one of the small Scottish islands. They are one of the small communities left on the planets as humanity, as we know it, has been completely eradicated by a phenomenon called The Gelding. The Gelding is behind this rapid decline in population as people suddenly could no longer reproduce. Some people were an exception to the rule and managed to keep our species just on the brink of extinction but life is completely changed. The story follows young Griz on his long adventure after he had had one of his dogs stolen by a stranger. The stranger comes to trade with the family and runs off with Griz’s dog, Jess. And of course any reader with a pet out there would agree that the natural course to take in such a situation is to go and get your dog back. At least this is the stance that Griz takes and it is his epic journey to save Jess that forms the main part of Fletcher’s novel.
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is a great exploration of humanity not only in a hypothetical, dystopian future but as we are in this present moment of time. Griz’s journey takes him further away than ever before and deeper into the remnants of the Before World whilst living the reality of the After World. There are many pages of just Griz and his ruminations and thoughts and they can feel a bit tedious for readers who enjoy a page-turning action. However, all those pages of seeming inactivity let us see the inner working of a child that is faced for the first time with the past. Griz’s curiosity and honesty is really compelling and entirely believable and seeing humanity through his eyes is the greatest achievement of the book. His wander into the unknown lets the reader see the world from the viewpoint of an innocent and curious child who just wants to get his dog back. The reader sees Griz’s astonishment and amazement when faced with enormous buildings and record players. And his first ever taste of peaches and his utter delight at it reminds us how much we take for granted in our daily lives.
The rest of the sparse character cast shows the reader the different ways people have adapted to this new world. We see Griz’s family who are toiling and just making the best out of a bad situation trying to survive and keep the nuclear family idea alive. John Dark, Griz’s companion later on in the book, and her revenge seeking clashes with a softer side that we see in her. The complexity of her character highlights the idea that people indeed have multitudes within them. And the sect Griz encounters in the final chapters of the book holds a mirror to parts of humanity that are not just fictional but painfully familiar for the reader. This is another theme that runs throughout the book. Although the novel is all about the end of the world it holds a mirror to the world we know in our present and it acts as a bright, warning sign to its readers. Fletcher’s book tries to awake within us the amazement that Griz experiences in order to show us that we must take care of what we have for it is brilliant and magical and we must try our best to preserve it.
This review will not spoil the ending and the big twists and turns that happen in the last pages of the book. Griz gets the ending he deserves and although it feels a bit rushed and somewhat unrealistic, it will make most readers smile for Griz and his dogs. C.A.Fletcher has managed to create a dystopian novel that unlike other novels of this kind is not terrifying and entirely sad. Yes, there are losses but there is also happiness in the small things, there is repetitiveness but there is also magic when we see it the way Griz does. It is an adventure tale that offers a deep insight into us, humans, our culture and our civilization, the ways we live and what it all may mean in the near future. It is also a tale that suggests to its reader again and again to slow down a bit and look around us and enjoy the simple comforts we have, such as peaches and tall buildings and music, as Griz reminds us how lucky we are ‘to get used to magic like that.’
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is out now, published by Orbit.