I haven’t enjoyed a book quite as much as this in a long time. A post-apocalyptic dystopian ripping yarn, which is both funny and moving in equal measure. A reflection on what might happen if the more intolerant, nationalistic elements of the Bretix movement become amplified. Nothing particularly new in the post-apocalyptic vision, however, the richly drawn characters enable Adrian J Walker to use the tropes of the genre to say something engaging and profound about our current situation, and more so about our humanity.
If books had sex, these would be its relatives…
Day of the Triffids, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Girl with all the Gifts
The longer review bit…
Adrian J Walker’s prose practically turns the page itself in The Last Dog on Earth. It starts off engagingly and never lets up. What particularly aids this is alternating between two first person (sort of) narrative points of view. The first is Lineker, a very sweary mongrel dog, with a love for life as big as his love for his master Reginald, and his (Linker’s that is) hatred for squirrels. The second narrator is Reginald, a recluse electrician most probably a little bit on the ASD spectrum. Reg and his faithful hound are camped out in their London flat. They never go beyond their limited zone. Reg always takes a note of what he has taken, as if thing might one day go back to normal and all the people who left in such a hurry might come back, back to the dirty bombs and rounding up of undesirables.
The novel is set in the near future, in what feels uncannily like an amplification on Bretix nationalism. Purples, as Reg calls them, rose to power. Those of the light fought back in the maelstrom civil society broke down and the country is now a patchwork of territories of the two sides. This is the wider metaphorical structuring of the book, between light and dark, despair and hope, life and death, and ultimately hate and understanding. These are two ends of a thread that pull against each other. They are Reg’s story arch and Lineker’s too, sometimes weaving in opposite directions. They are the tensions in the country and ultimately in the human soul. Linker the dog is brilliantly drawn. The adoring dog, ever living in the moment, but wont of the occasional philosophical musings, as those brown eyes stare wistfully out of the window. There are Jack Londonish motifs played out through Lineker, with his doggish extra-sensory-perception, he feels the call of the wild, or the howl as he terms it. Again, there is an implied duality here between the state of nature and civilization but again it is cleverly handled as it is not always clear which better.
This character driven approach is what makes this such a great read. There is little novel about the dystopian landscape we are see. It does feel quite plausible. But it is not an eccentric imagination of the future that drives this story but the characters in it. I loved them. I really couldn’t wait to find out what happened to them and so turned the pages again and again, staying up late to just read another and then another chapter. Reg’s journey is a journey from within himself, hiding from things in his past. Lineker is beautifully drawn. Anyone who has dogs will appreciate him and his personality. His sense of smell, in particular, is handled so well, and plays as a testament to Adrian J Walker’s ability with descriptive prose.
In summation, this is a cracker of a read. Wonderfully drawn characters who reluctantly embark on a perilous journey to help someone but ultimately need to save themselves. A book as emotionally poignant as it is a page-turning romp. Funny, heart wrenching, exciting and one of the best last pages I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, leaving me with a lovely, warm, fuzzy afterglow, that is keeping me warm – like roasting marshmallows over the irradiated hole in Westminster with your faithful hound at your side.
Adrian J. Walker
Adrian J Walker was born in the bush suburbs of Sydney, Australia in the mid ’70s. After his father found a camper van in a ditch, he renovated it and moved his family back to the UK, where Adrian was raised.
Ever since he can remember, Adrian has been interested in three things: words, music and technology, and when he graduated from the University of Leeds, he found a career in software. His novel The End of the World Running Club, a post-apocalyptic running fable about hope, love and endurance, was a Simon Mayo Radio 2 book club choice.
He lives in London with his wife and two children. To find out more visit: http://www.adrianjwalker.com
The Last Dog on Earth is available from Del Rey an Imprint of Penguin Random House you can purchase a copy here.
Review by Daniel Soule
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