I feel the need to celebrate. Finally, finally, I have read another book that I absolutely adore.
You know an author has done something wonderful when they make you cry.
The End of the World Running Club is a story set in the aftermath of (what sounds like) much of the northern hemisphere being struck by a catastrophic meteor shower. There’s no build up to this at all, the reader’s just plunged straight into the event and what happens next.
The plot focuses on Ed as he struggles across 500 miles to reach his family in time for a rumoured evacuation of survivors.
Ed, is really well written. He’s a very believable guy in a kind of unbelievable situation. Although he starts out pretty selfish and oblivious, he’s not excessively so. I’m sure many readers can look at his actions and attitude and see some of their own worst qualities reflected back. That’s why the journey he goes on is so powerful.
Soon, we’re introduced to a larger group of survivors, and from them a smaller group splits off to travel with Ed. These characters are also great personalities. I found all of them memorable, with relatable motivations and backstories of their own.
The group meets other survivors during the journey, and (as anyone who reads post-apocalyptic fiction will guess) it doesn’t always go as planned. But all of these antagonists – even the ones who do outrageous things – are believable. They sound like real people and when Ed and his companions leave them, you wonder what happened to them.
For me, the mark of a great character is someone who makes you need to keep reading, and I wanted to find out what happened to all the characters in this book.
The instigating event – the meteor shower/asteroid strikes – is filtered through Ed’s point of view. So, you get a frustrating lack of detail because our Ed is one flawed character. He’s not really paying attention to anything.
The author doesn’t spend very long on the immediate aftermath of the impacts, and the way Ed and his family escape their first predicament feels far-fetched (but it is explained later in the book). The next part of the story is also sparse on certain details. By the time Ed sets of on the journey that the book focuses on, it’s not all that clear how much time has passed since the strikes.
But, one of the first things we find out is that the story is being told by Ed, in retrospect – thinking about the early events of the story – it’s clear that he was in shock and events tended to just happen around him rather than involve any action on his part. The story just gets more compelling the more he takes agency in his own life.
Again, because the narrator can be somewhat unreliable, there’s a part towards the end of the book where the group appears to zip across a massive section of the country way too fast. I didn’t really notice it much at the time, and I don’t think it’s a major issue, because this is a story that Ed is telling us and he admits that it may be patchy in parts.
I would recommend The End of the World Running Club to anyone who likes a good thriller, or anything post-apocalyptic. It reminds me of The Road a bit, but this story manages to be much more hopeful in its message. The story was fast paced and visceral, and I need to know what happens next.