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Zombies and post-apocalyptic sci-fi: 'A Boy and His Dog'

Zombie Mondays

Harlan Ellison's classic 1969 science fiction novella 'A Boy and His Dog' is one of the funniest but ultimately grimmest post-apocalyptic stories ever written, in my opinion. And while it is not a zombie story, it certainly has some of the same tropes -- man emerging as his own worst enemy, social breakdown, survivors hunkering down in a presumed safe spot, monsters spawned by the end times and so on.

The plot concerns a teen-aged survivor named Vic and his genetically engineered, military trained telepathic companion -- an intelligent dog named Blood. Vic narrates the tale but Blood is the brains of the pair (you might say he is the tail that wags the dog).

The two are on a quest for supplies, but Vic is after the scarcest commodity of all -- females. They come into conflict with brigands and eventually wind up discovering an underground bunker where a mockery of the former middle America is maintained. Everything culminates in a brutally tragic ending.

There is a film adaption by L.Q. Jones starring a younger Don Johnson. Many people like it but I feel that it blunts the tragedy of the original story by resorting to gallows humor as a concession to hipness. It also lacks the story's attention to detail -- my favorite bit from the print version involves a theater run by a local gang where the audience includes more of the telepathic dogs -- the pooches are critiquing a war film about a battle in which some of them had fought.

Ellison also wrote a sequel titled 'Vic and Blood' in which the dog narrates the story.

This tale, which can be found in Ellison's short story collection 'The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World', is worth your time. Check it out.

(Editor's note: our review of the rpg 'Outbreak: Undead' can be found here).

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