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Monday, January 8, 2018

The End Of The World Running Club (Review): There Is No Finish Line

There are lots of reason to take up running. To lose weight. To feel better, etc. I started running a couple years ago because I desperately needed to do something to stem the tide of quickly approaching middle age. But if you're Ed Hill of Scotland, you start running because if you ever want to see your family again, you have 500 miles to cover and only three weeks to do it... (Cue dramatic movie trailer music...) And oh yeah, it's the apocalypse!

That's the juicy setup for Adrian J. Walker's novel The End of the World Running Club, a story of Ed's fight for survival traversing the British Isle after civilization has been basically destroyed by a massive meteor shower.

Ed's kind of schmuck, frankly. He's a bad father, a worse husband, and is nursing a worsening drinking problem. So, to him, an apocalypse might not be the worst thing in the world. He's just about had enough anyway:
"The truth is I was tired of it all. I was tired of the clamor and the din of the world that made less sense by the day and a life that had me just where it wanted. The truth is that the end of the world, for me at least, came as a relief."
That's not a super cheery sentiment (though I did kind of laugh when I read those lines — it's not too much of a stretch these days to root for the end of the world, or at least a huge change to how things are now, right?), and it doesn't exactly put you in Ed's corner. He's not your traditional hero of the apocalypse, that's for sure.

But so, a series of events result in Ed being separated from his family, and we learn that evacuation boats are leaving from the southern tip of England with his family on Christmas day — 21 days hence.

So Ed starts running. He's not sure why. It's not a conscious decision. And he's never done it before. He just needs to run. With a crew of four others, Ed begins making his way south through a devastated post-apocalyptic landscape.

The thing I enjoyed most about this novel (and why I picked it up in the first place) is Ed's thoughts on running. Before the meteors hit, and life was normal, Ed had admitted he'd been lazy — that his kids had been a valid justification in his mind not to have the time or energy to work out. And not only that, but he'd also hated runners because he thought they were just showing off, rubbing it in his face with their long strides as he stood outside a pub smoking a cigarette. They are fit and in shape and he's a fat dumb drunk. I loved that part — I had similar thoughts about runners (usually while standing outside a bar smoking a cigarette, often while day-drinking) before I started running. And even post-apocalypse, when Ed starts running, he still hates it, it's still draining. It takes a while for him to break through the proverbial wall and embrace running.

Even if you're not a runner and could care less about running, there's still plenty here to keep you interested. It's also a novel about how people — both good and evil — deal with the apocalypse, and how it makes them more good or more evil. Ed and his crew encounter several other survivors, both friends and foes, as they traverse the country. Some help, some don't. And Walker's pace is breakneck, things move along rather quickly.

So this was a fun read — it freshens up the post-apocalyptic thriller genre just a bit. There's plenty that's familiar, but turning this into kind of a running novel was a neat take.

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