Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review: The End of the World Running Club

Read 9/15/14 - 9/29/14
3 Stars - Great fun for fans of post-apocalyptic books that just keep going and going and going...
Pages: 355
Publisher: Self published
Released: June 2014

For Edgar and his family, the end of the world does not come quietly, in the throes of some unknown virus that reanimates those it kills. Instead, while on an early morning walk to calm his fussy little boy and shake off the last of his late night hangover, contemplating his dead-end middle-aged life, Ed and his neighbors get caught up in the confusion of a technological black-out and watch as a series of meteors head straight for their hometown. Acting on impulse alone, Ed grabs a case of water from his buddy's shop, races home and piles his family into the basement, bringing in whatever they can carry, whatever's within reach, to wait out the worst of it.

A week after the meteors wiped out most of the United Kingdom, Ed and his family are rescued - right at the very moment he comes to terms with the fact that he, his wife, and his two young kids will die in that dark, disgusting cellar. They are escorted to a makeshift shelter at an army barracks, and after the shock of seeing the devastated land around them, the routine of three straight meals and regular "work assignments" temporarily lulls him back into his disenchanted old ways. Until the day he returns from a routine salvage run to find his family gone.

This is the story of Ed's awakening. The world as he knew it has been blasted away; those who survived will live a simpler, more severe life; and it's just the chance this overweight, reluctant husband and father has been waiting for. Accompanied by a ragtag team of barracks residents, Ed follows his family across the UK, in a race against time and the long list of obstacles that stand in his way.

Adrian J Walker does a really nice job of capturing the human side of the apocalypse. Writing Ed as a self-depreciating protagonist helped to keep the dark times from becoming too dark and the brief moments of smooth sailing from becoming too boring. Darkly comedic, incredibly humbling, The End of the World Running Club shows us what can happen when we're pushed to the very brink of sanity. When everything we love's been taken from us, we've got a choice between stepping over the edge and plummeting into the madness or turning ourselves around and finding a reason to keep on going. Which path would we choose? What kind of survivor would we be? Or would we survive at all? How long would we last when the world around us begins to work against us? I swear, I could see myself ending up either (a) like the lady who was banging on Edgar's door right as the meteors were crashing down, praying that the kindness of a stranger might save me (and of course, it won't, and I'd die right there in the blaze and heat of it all) or (b) I'd ball up and become a bitch, taking whatever I need from who ever has it, and getting totally fucking lucky when I convince others to join my "team", as we reek havoc all over our new little territory. I'd like to think I'd end up the latter, but I bet I'd be dead before the opening credits finished playing out. I'd be a red-shirt for sure. In the post apocalyptic life, I'd be "nameless dumbass #2" whose 15 seconds of fame would be "standing in the middle of the street staring in disbelief as the meteors fell out of the sky above me".

While I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, I think it went on for much too long. Adrian could have easily shaved off 100 pages and still had a killer story. There were times, while reading, that I practically shouted out "Seriously?! How much more can this guy take? How can you STILL be throwing things at him?" However, that's not exactly a knock on the editing, because for all the hoops that Ed and his pals had to jump through, each part was well written, each event flowed easily into and out of the other (well, except for the labyrinth part maybe, that one was kind of rough).

The feeling I got as I read the book was more of a "kid in a candy store"... where there are barrels and barrels of candy, and the choice is almost impossible to make, so you start to fill your bag with a little bit of everything... This book offered so many cool opportunities. I mean, hello? A post apocalyptic novel where anything can happen, and people can become anyone and do anything they want! What writer wouldn't go a little overboard, right?

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