The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J Walker

Rating 9.0/10
At turns funny, disturbing, moving and thought-provoking. A dark yet life-affirming book

Book of the Month

The Last Dog on Earth is the latest novel from Adrian J. Walker, author of the bestselling The End of the World Running Club. In this latest offering Walker remains within the same genre to present a dystopian bombed-out London where, as the novel opens, he introduces us to the agoraphobic, former electrician Reginald and his trusty canine companion, Lineker.

Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can be. Reg, an agoraphobic writer with an obsession for nineties football, plans to wait out the impending doom in his second floor flat, hiding himself away from the riots outside. But when an abandoned orphan shows up in the stairwell of their building, Reg and Lineker must brave the outside in order to save not only the child, but themselves...

First, the positives, of which there are many. I enjoyed the way this story was told, especially the way it utilised a dual narrative. The second voice we encounter is the human, Reginald, who recounts his experiences through a journal. But the first, and by far the best voice, is that of Lineker. It is this narrative that sets the novel apart from anything else is the genre. Walker puts Linker’s thoughts onto the page in a way that we can understand and I would imagine he had as much fun writing it as we the reader have reading it. Lineker’s narrative is often gross, and often humorous and this poetry-writing, expletive-spouting canine loves nothing more than the fouler smells emitted from his owner: the wind, the morning breath being particular favourites. He is a beast full of boundless energy and let’s face it - dogs do many things we humans class as disgusting (smell each others bottoms, roll in manure, lick their own testes etc), and to have this written down in a way a human can comprehend resulted in my laughing and cringing in equal measure. Ultimately it allowed me to feel the bond with Lineker I believe I would also have felt in real life. Oh, and Lineker hates squirrels. He hates squirrels so much he drops the c-bomb liberally and inventively when they make an appearance in the story.

To enjoy a story this dark you have to like some of the characters involved and thankfully Lineker and Reginald (and those we encouner later in the story) really worked for me. Reginald was an everyman that all will recognize, a decent man who has been left damaged by life, a man who has found a way of coping with this trauma by cutting himself off from society and seeking solace in routine. He dislikes human contact and his writing and his canine friend are everything to him. One element I really found impressed me about Walker’s last book, The Running Club at the End of the World was how realistically the male lead was portrayed and I experienced the exact same here: I knew a Reginald, we all know a Reginald. I also enjoy this author because I get his references. Geoff Capes anyone? Younger readers may need to look him up but I understood when Reginald said “and I am no Geoff Capes, believe me” instantly and it made me laugh. So I am happy to admit that my age, and these references, played an important part in increasing my reading enjoyment.

The first part of The Last Dog on Earth introduces us to man and dog while vividly showing us a disturbingly realistic bombed-out London in the not-so-distant year of 2021. Once this introduction is over we encounter the abandoned orphan Aisha and from here book begins to pick ever greater speed as her plight pulls Reginald kicking and struggling from out of his comfort zone. We then travel the waste land London has become, finding both decency and inhumanity as they try to get the girl home. There is not as much horror here as you may find in other books in the genre like, say, The Road, and the horrific elements that do exist in this book draw upon human history for inspiration, with Hitler’s rise to power and the concentration camps that formed part of his ‘master plan’ used to strong effect. A warning from the past you might say.

I’ve read all the great dystopia and post-apocalyptic fiction I could lay hands on but found that this particular well had begun to run dry. So I am always on the lookout for new titles (The Dog Stars by Peter Heller being an excellent recent discovery) and I would definitely add Walker’s books to my list of recommended titles.

The Last Dog on Earth is a book I would recommend highly as it is at turns funny, disturbing, moving and thought-provoking. Walker is an excellent author who creates great characters and in Lineker he has excelled himself. A dark yet life-affirming book ideal for those who enjoy reading within the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre.

And finally, I also like these types of books because they hold up a mirror for us to look into in. I’ll end this review with a damning vision of humanity through the eyes of a dog:

“You slaughter the forests with giant saws. You throttle the sea with plastic. You drown the sky with soot. You kill everything in your path. And why? Not to survive - you've already nailed that one - oh no, you kill to give yourself little luxuries like skin scrubs, painkillers and boxes to chatter on. You - you kill for no other reason than comfort and curiosity. You kill so your eyes don't sting when you wash your hair.”

The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian Walker (Del Rey, £7.99)

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