This book has all the hallmarks of a tale from a dystopian world future, with a boy called Landfill and Babagoo-the man who looks after him-living in the most primitive of conditions and scavenging what they can from their environment in order to survive. The irony of this scenario is that, unbeknown to Landfill they are living in present time but hidden from the otside world, which Babagoo fears as a result of its corruption and cruelty. Landfill is named for the place where Babagoo found him, having been cast aside there by his mother and he is subject to Babagoo’s rules about how to keep safe and preserve the status quo.
The pair have developed their own idiosyncratic language variations-largely, though not exclusively onomatopoeic-and terminology, which give their conversations both interest and opaqueness. Their relationship shifts and changes but there seems to be real regard between them, woven through with Babagoo’s shifting parent/teacher/bully persona. Babagoo constantly drills Landfill in his rules, which are many and particular. However necessary and sensible rules might be, however, they are there to be broken and Landfill, eager to see The Outside beyond their own world of Hinterland, ventures tentatively and fearfully into the unknown.This has devastating consequences when Dawn, an Outsider, comes into Hinterland using Landfill’s exit route from it. She is initially curious and then alarmed at Landfill’s lack of knowledge and understanding of her world and alerts the authorities to his situation.
This-and Babagoo’s illness and subsequent death-mark the end of the Hinterland and the beginning of exposure to life on The Outside. Landfill gets his first taste of this when he tries to go and buy medicine to treat the animal bite which Babagoo received which has become infected. We see our world through Landfill’s eyes and it is a source of shame to us. Greed, violence and a disregard for one’s fellow man prevail and Landfill-naive, sheltered, a lover of all living things-is at a loss to understand it. Yet, through Dawn, he has come to appreciate music and when, after the destruction of Hinterland, he is searching for food he follows its sound. He witnesses a baby being rescued from a tip site-rather too neat an echo of his own fate?- and recognises a spark of humanity within the rescuers and the book ends with his nervous resolve to take his chances in this new and startling environment.