Released: September 5th 2017
Warnings: Animal death (implied and shown)
I received a copy of the End of the World Running Club from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I picked up The End of the World Running Club to read because it sounded so different from more dystopian novels I’ve read. I mean, how often is the focus on the running part of it? As a bonus, the artwork on the cover is really striking – it’s actually the reason I read the description to begin with. The End of the World Running Club isn’t Adrian J. Walker’s first novel, and the experience in writing shows. After this I’m probably going to check out some of his other books (he appears to be a very prolific writer too, which is fantastic for people who obsessively read).
Warnings first: There’s a whole lot of animal death in this novel. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise, considering it covers an event that literally results in the end of civilization as we know it. Sadly this means that animals would be hit pretty hard. The End of the World Running Club is unapologetically a post-apocalypse novel that doesn’t shy from hard to deal with details. I found it best not to think too hard about the tidbits he drops here and there.
When I first saw the title of this book, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I guess some part of my brain naturally assumed there’d be zombies (because of the running), but I’m happy to report that that wasn’t the case (no offense to zombies, but a change is nice once and a while). You can tell that Walker put a lot of thought into the “end of the world” part of his story, even though the event itself doesn’t last the entire length of the novel (though obviously the effects of said event last much longer).
The plot itself is actually fairly straight-forward, it just so happens to be very thoroughly fleshed out. The main character, Edgar (AKA Ed) survives a cataclysmic event with his family. Shortly after he’s separated from them, so he and a small group of survivors start the long trek to be reunited with Ed’s family and the rest of their group. Obviously a lot of events and obstacles lay in their path, which makes up the majority of the story (and helps to make it more interesting).
The funny thing about the title is that the exact words did finally appear in the novel – almost three quarters of the way through. Meanwhile the “club” didn’t become a running club until the halfway point, give or take. There’s a decent amount of buildup to that point, so that when everything does finally all come together it makes sense.
The characters in the novel were almost brutally human – they reflected both the good and the bad of humanity. Sometimes we got to see genuinely caring people, other times we saw a character that had always and will always put themselves first. The variety in personalities among the survivors was greatly appreciated. There are seven people in the original group that sets out, Ed (obviously), Harvey, Grimes, Bryce, Henderson, Yuill, and Richard. Ed wasn’t the best dad before the event, and he’s trying to make up for all his mistakes by getting back to his family when he’s needed the most. Harvey is a rock, and I mean that in the emotional sense; he’s always the stable and reasonable one in the group. Bryce is described as a bear in size, and his emotions are rarely under check. Grimes is a military woman, determined to stay by those she swore to protect. Richard is a single father who just wants to get back to his kid (who is off with Ed’s family), his presence screams past military experience. Henderson and Yuill are probably the least defined of the group; one is temperamental and a bully, the other is a bit of a push-over and resentful of the position he’s been placed in (I describe them together because I honestly cannot remember which is which).
I’ll admit that a couple of the character deaths that occurred felt unjust to me. I’ll admit that this was at least in part because I liked those characters, so my bias is clearly showing some. (Massive spoilers ahead) I really liked Grimes, and felt she deserved better than she got. Yes, I know she died doing what she wanted (protecting the people she promised to help), but it just felt so sudden, and was over with so quickly, I didn’t really have time to cope or adjust. The other one that broke my heart was Harvey – not only did I love his character, but I felt like his death was so needless. They were there! He could have been safe! I keep thinking to myself “if they hadn’t let him go to sleep right then, he’d still be around.” So I guess that really goes to show how good of a job Walker did at getting me emotionally attached.
I really enjoyed Ed’s perspective on the whole thing – he’s retelling the events he went through to get to where he did. I believe he’s doing it to prevent himself from questioning his own sanity. It’s actually a really interesting thought. What proof does Ed have of any of it happening? From where he’s currently sitting, you can’t tell if any of it is true. Sure, he could probably walk a mile or less and start seeing more proof, but that raises some interesting questions. Should he have to do that to prove his sanity? And if so, who is he proving it to?
I enjoyed reading the End of the World Running Club, it was an interesting perspective on an old topic (dystopian novels) and I really enjoyed the unique nature of it. I’m going to take some time to look into Wilder’s other books once I finish writing this review. He’s definitely an author worth keeping an eye on.