How I discovered this book: Amazon browse
In A Nutshell: Post-Apocalyptic Journey
Over a period of three generations humanity almost petered out, as the world population became cursed with a mysterious infertility. Griz and his family are some of the few survivors not affected by this blight; he was born many years after society collapsed. They live on a remote Scottish island, with little knowledge of how the ways of the world since the technical revolution; there are still many history books from the 20th Century and before, but since the collapse of the world began, record exists mostly via word of mouth. The 21st Century has become the new Dark Ages.
One day, a traveller arrives, on his boat. Brand appears friendly, but he has a hidden agenda. Because of Brand's actions, Griz sets off down to the mainland to track him. His only company is his dog, Jip.
Griz's exact age is not mentioned, but one gets the impression he is around fourteen. The story consists of the dangers, joys and discoveries of his journey, and is written in the first person, with Griz addressing a boy from the old world whose picture he found. A large part of the narrative addresses the difference between the world as it was and as it is now, and his thoughts about it, which I loved. It flows well, in a conversational, easy-read style.
On the whlle I enjoyed this book, though now and again I felt it could have benefited from a more ruthless edit; some of the description is a bit skip-read-worthy, and I spotted a couple of errors (including my pet peeve, the use of the word 'I' when it should be 'me'). Half-way through, Griz meets up with a French woman, with whom he travels. She can't speak English, but they find ways to communicate. Everything she says to him in French is spelled out phonetically, as Griz would have heard it, which became irritating; much of the time, I couldn't work out what she was supposed to be saying, even when I read it out loud. A little would have been fine, but there was too much.
The other aspect I was not keen on was lack of speech marks, an affectation made popular by Cormac McCarthy. Sometimes it works well, and is actually more effective; this was the case earlier on in this book, but not later, when there is more dialogue; now and again I had to re-read to differentiate between spoken word, inner thoughts and general narrative. As McCarthy himself says, it's not just a matter of taking the quotation marks out.
As the book nears its hugely unpredictable end, there are two great twists about which I didn't have a clue. And, despite all the 'if only I had known' foreshadowing - which other reviews complained about but I liked - the book actually ends fairly positively.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes character-driven post apocalyptic novels, as there is plenty off that stuff-we-love about lost civilisation and survival, though if you like your post-apoc more action-packed, this probably won't be your thing. Despite the elements I was not so keen on, I was anxious to keep turning the pages to see what would happen, which is much of what it's all about, really. I'm glad I discovered it.