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The End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker

BOTTOM LINE: Thought-provoking but not quite what I wanted

Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: 5 September 2017
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“When the world ends and you find yourself forsaken, every second counts.

No one knows this more than Edgar Hill. Stranded on the other side of the country from his wife and children, Ed must push himself across a devastated wasteland to get back to them. With the clock ticking and hundreds of miles between them, his best hope is to run — or risk losing what he loves forever.”

My Thoughts: The premise of The End of the World Running Club is pretty simple. When the world seemingly ends and everything you have known is forever changed and/or lost, the only way to get from point A to point B is by foot. However, when you have to travel that distance within a specific time frame and walking is too slow, you run. However, Edgar is like millions of Western men and women – overweight, out of shape, and completely unprepared for post-apocalyptic life. The story is of Edgar coming to gripes with his past and present to decide what he wants for the future.

Edgar is not alone on his journey. Neither is this a total or sudden apocalypse. There is ample warning for those who paid attention and even 12-hour warnings for those who were not. The destruction is also geographic in nature. As such, there are people and, as we later find out, entire parts of the world, who are able to escape the devastation. The local survivors initially band together as a means of governance and assessment of the situation. They spend their days seeking supplies and monitoring the landscape for other survivors who are more isolationist. There is the required tension as dissimilar personalities are forced together via necessity, and they all must learn to compromise and adjust to this new world. There is also plenty of suspense as the group runs into all types of survivors on their trek.

In several instances, the novel has the feel of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road without being quite as grim. There are some gruesome scenes and some very unfriendly survivors, and there is a sense that it is every man for himself out there. However, the story is more hopeful and positive than other post-apocalyptic novels. In a sense, the story is not about the damage or even post-apocalyptic life. Rather, it is Edgar’s reassessment of his life, his previous ennui with his job, his dissatisfaction as a parent, his general malaise at the futility of gadgets and things and the rat race that can be life. As Edgar runs with his fellow survivors, he must look inside himself to determine what, if anything, is worth the effort. He must recognize his past failures and confront harsh truths about himself. The physical journey is the scenery by which this internal journey occurs.

The End of the World Running Club is not so much a scary novel intended to convince you to prepare for the apocalypse as it is an opportunity for self-assessment alongside Edgar. As Edgar reevaluates his life choices, you automatically review yours as well. In fact, it is a more thoughtful novel than I expected. The title makes me think it is going to be campier than it really is. I actually wanted campy, so the earnest novel I read, while interesting and engaging, leaves me feeling disappointed. However, that problem is mine and not the fault of the author’s. The End of the World Running Club is a quiet novel of hope in a world filled with chaos. How fitting for today’s world.

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