Last night I finished reading Greg van Eekhout’s fabulous The Boy at the End of the World. I haven’t had this much fun with a book in quite a while.
I have to admit that I never would have picked this book up if I didn’t know Greg. See, it’s aimed at middle-grade readers, and not my usual thing, especially now that my kids have gotten older. But Greg had me laughing in the first chapter, and I started reading lines aloud to my wife Kathy. So forget the middle grade reader designation — this is just a good book, witty and zippy enough to keep even a sour old guy like me smiling and turning the pages.
The hero of the book — and this is an old fashioned adventure, where “hero” is definitely the right term — is Fisher, a boy who wakes up from his pod just as the entire Ark is crashing down around his head. Thousands of years have passed, and Fisher has no memories or skills except the ones that have been programmed into him.
…A big chunk of ceiling fell right in front of him, and Fisher discovered another thing he knew: profanity. Profanity was a collection of words that helped express strong feelings.
Fisher uttered a word from his profanity collection now.
That last line was the first one I read aloud to Kathy. She’s reading the book now.
Fisher learns that he’s a vat-grown kid, maybe the last boy on earth, and with the help of a robot companion named Click and a pygmy mammoth named Protein, he journeys across a wildly changed America, looking for another Ark where humans might have survived. The jungles, it goes without saying, are alive with killer parrots, weaponized prairie dogs, murderous robot drones.
Did I mention this book was fun?
You older children will pick up on nods to Huckleberry Finn, and SF readers will realize that this is essentially a generation ship story, though one in which the ships never leave earth. And while there’s a serious ecological message underlying the book, there’s a cheerful energy to the story that’s very engaging.
The Boy at the End of the World is due out on June 21. Check out Greg’s site, order it for the 9-13 year old that’s in your life, read it yourself before you give it to the child, abruptly realize that you want to keep this copy for yourself, and order a second one.