Book Review: The End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker

Belief, memory, fear— these things hold you back, weigh you down, stop you moving. And I need to get moving. I need to stop thinking about this stuff. That’s what Harvey would say— stop thinking, keep moving. But it’s hard to stop thinking when there’s nobody else but you and a candle and an old house on the crumbling coast of a ruined country. Maybe that’s why I’m writing this down— so I can stop thinking about it and get moving.

One part existential meditation and personal redemption, one part post-apocalyptic survival story, The End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker follows Ed as he is forced to become a better person, though only because deadly asteroids have destroyed most of his vices.

All I know is that the end— in the end— came from the skies.

Ed is cynical, lazy and often halfway into a bottle of wine. He schleps off the majority of the parenting responsibility of his two kids onto his wife because “the one who works, sleeps”. Ed is a character you love to hate, though his critical nature of the world, obvious love for his family despite his actions and nearly complete awareness of his flaws (though not their repercussions) are his redeemable qualities. He has surprising insight for such a disagreeable person and it is this sardonic nature that proves instrumental in his downfall and also his survival.

I wondered daily how we had ever even made it this far. It was a joke, pointless. How could we look after a planet when we couldn’t even look after our own countries, our own towns, our own communities? Our own families. Our own selves. Our own bodies. Our own heads.

Ed wakes up one morning, as he often does, bleary eyed and still half-drunk, but this time something is different: the regular sounds of morning are silenced. Stumbling outside, Ed heads to the corner store and quickly discovers the reason behind the odd morning. Warnings sit boldly on the front page of the newspaper: Strike Imminent! Scotland is about to be hit by asteroids.

In a panic, Ed frantically gathers his family: his wife, young daughter and baby son. They seek shelter in their cellar and hope to be spared. And when the attack is over, Ed quickly realizes the task he is now presented with– one that he is wholly unfit for.

The world had designed me to be something. I was supposed to be a survival mechanism, a series of devices and instincts built, tested, and improved upon over billions of years. I was a sculpture of hydrogen, evolution’s cutting edge, a vessel of will, a self-adjusting, self-aware machine of infinite resource and potential. That was what the world had designed me to be. A survivor. A human being. A man. I sat still in the darkness of the cellar. Arranged on the shelves before me were objects I had not created and could not create; food I had not gathered crammed into cylinders of metal I had not mined; water I had not collected in containers made of chemical formulae beyond my intelligence. I was no hunter, no engineer, no fighter. I was nothing that the world needed me to be. Nothing that my family needed me to be. I did what my body wanted me to do: eat, sleep, stay still, fuck, eat, sleep.

Two weeks later, after Ed has contemplated suicide and almost completely alienated his family, they are rescued and brought to an army barracks along with a group of other survivors. Still mostly unchanged by recent events, Ed seeks out every opportunity to escape his family: dangerous reconnaissance missions, supply runs and the like. It is during one of these outings that something happens which brings everything into focus for Ed. His family is rescued and they didn’t think twice about leaving without him. It is this realization that ignites the fire of change deep within Ed.

You have to understand, you see, this wasn’t a choice. I hadn’t weighed the options; I hadn’t considered the practicalities; I hadn’t reached a logical conclusion. What happened next was not because of my own volition, not because I had found some hidden well of courage and determination.

Left with no other options and faced with the real and desperate need to survive, Ed and the few other abandoned people rally together and attempt the impossible. They must make it across the country of Scotland in time to catch the ships commissioned to transport survivors to safety. So they consider the timeline and make a decision that feeds the fire within Ed until is fully ablaze.

The body wants nothing to do with this. The mind wants nothing to do with this. The resistance wants nothing to do with this. And yet… you’re running. Who are you?

Their journey is fraught with disaster, destruction and the results of humanity pushed to the brink. Each leg of their extreme marathon is action-packed and full of quirky survivors and unusual obstacles. As he fights for his life, Ed begins a transformation and the blessings that still remain become clearer with each tortured mile run.

I felt a surge of hope with every dim sunrise, and with every surge came a feeling of getting nearer to Beth and the kids. When running, I spent most of the time daydreaming about what it would be like to see them again. The smell and warmth of their skin. The sound of Alice’s voice. What our life would be like. Hope became my drug.

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A review copy of this title was provided by Sourcebooks via Netgalley.

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