On reading: The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J Walker

Title: The End of the World Running Club

Author: Adrian J Walker

From the back: Edgar Hill is 35 and caught in his own headlock. Overweight slob, under-performing husband and reluctant father – for Ed, the world may as well have already ended.

So when it does end in a catastrophic asteroid strike and Edgar and his family find refuge in an Edinburgh army barracks, it comes as something of a relief. His world becomes simpler, life becomes easier, things might just be looking up.

But nothing’s ever that simple. Returning from a salvage run in the city, Edgar finds his family gone, taken to the south coast for evacuation by an international task force.  Suddenly he finds himself facing a gruelling journey on foot across a devastated United Kingdom. Accompanied by a group of misfits that include a large, hairy tattoo artist and an old man who claims to have run around Australia, Edgar must race against time and overcome his own short-comings, not to mention 100 mile canyons and a very strange council estate, to find the people he loves before he loses them forever.

A vivid, gripping story of hope, long-distance running and how we break the limits of our own endurance.

The gist: I love dystopian fiction. I love apocalyptic fiction. I love science fiction. I hate running.

I’m terrible at it. I genuinely sound like Darth Vader if I attempt to run more than about ten metres. Even when I used to be relatively athletic and play sport regularly, I still hated running. The last time I went running, I was overtaken by a spritely gentleman well into his sixties who gallantly asked me if I was OK. I wheezed a reply which he took to mean ‘yes’, which actually meant ‘OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE PLEASE CALL ME A CAB’.

That being the case, I was slightly worried when I picked up this book that it would be about trainers and lycra and joggers’ nipples. And although there was some running based banter, the majority of the book is about people, about relationships, and about overcoming our own flaws. It’s a really well paced read (HAHA I PUNNED DID YOU SEE IT?) and I devoured it in a couple of days. Initially, I thought it was a fun read. What I wasn’t expecting was that a week later I was still thinking about it.

Ed is an undoubtedly flawed character. He’s no hero. But then, are any of us? I know, personally, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, I’m not going to be the one leading a motley crew of survivors to safety, using only a lighter and a broken cat-toy as weapons. No, I’ll lose my glasses, fall over my laces, lose my rag with people when I get hungry, and probably get picked off from the group by some persistent zombie-cows.

And it’s the flaws in Ed’s character that are what makes this book great.

It’s what makes it real.

It’s the fact that you might not necessarily like Ed – he moans, he whinges, he doesn’t have the Instagram life we’re supposed to put out there.

And this book is about resetting, about working out what’s important.

And if you see parts of yourself in him, try not to wait for the next handy asteroid strike to give yourself a nudge in the right direction. Because that might involve a whole load of running and blisters on your feet.

Favourite line: “It wasn’t a return to a simpler life; it was a version of a simpler life. A version that replaced cholera, dysentery, freezing winters, lost harvests, frequent stillbirths, domestic violence and incest with underfloor heating, Sky Plus, solar panels and plump trust funds. It was just another decoration: wallpaper, not a return.”

Read if: You like apocalyptic fiction and are thinking about actually cashing in that voucher you got for gym membership at Christmas.

Read with: A massive piece of chocolate cake to make sure you’ve got the energy for that marathon you’re about to sign up for.

Get it: The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J Walker

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Grind Spark – out now

Longlisted for the Bath Novel Award 2014, Grind spark is a near-future dystopian novel about growing up in the years leading up to the end of the world. It’s about pretending to be the perfect family. It’s about whether you want to survive. Treat your eye portals. Pick up your copy here.

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