Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review/Recommendation: Aftertime

Title: Aftertime
Author: Sophie Littlefield
ISBN: 0373803362
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: sci-fi/thriller
Theme: Zombie/post-apocalyptic
Binding: paperback
Length: 384 pgs
Published: 15 February 2011
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com
My Rating:

The world is Gone. Worse, so is her daughter.

Awakening in a bleak landscape as scarred as her body, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls surviving something terrible. Having no idea how many weeks have passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: Ruthie has vanished.

And with her, nearly all of civilization. Where once-lush hills carried cars and commerce, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaters-- people turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong.

In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsider, let alone a woman who became a zombie and somehow turned back, but she finds help from an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. Smoke is her savior and her safety.

For the Beaters are out there. And the humans grip at survival with their trigger fingers. Especially when they learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared and desired of weapons in a brave new world...

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I'm not sure what is going on with me recently, but it's apparent that I have become obsessed with apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novels as of late. From Ann Aguirre's Enclave to Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse, I have a pretty vivid picture of what it would be like if vampires or robots took over the world. Now I can add zombies to the list!

So here are a few things I loved about Aftertime. Cass, our protagonist, is more of a relatable character than a likeable one. She is a recovering alcoholic who allowed men to use and abuse her body because of her low self-esteem and lack of self worth. Cass has never really been good at anything except for 2 things-- loving her daughter and surviving. We've all heard stories on the news or read about people getting second chances after experiencing some kind of tragedy. Cass easily falls into this category. It's as if she's been asleep for a really long time and suddenly snaps awake.

Speaking of waking up abruptly, that leads me to another thing I liked about the book. The story doesn't start before the apocalypse or way after. It starts with Cass walking after waking up without any recollection as to where she is or how she got there. But there is one thing she can't deny-- the fact that the "Beaters" (aka zombies) had somehow gotten to her and she survived. The proof was the torn, half eaten skin on her back...and the new growth of skin quickly regenerating. Creepy right? I give Sophie Littlefield a lot of credit for taking a different approach in hooking the attention of her readers.

I also admire the author's zombie mythology. While it may not be wholely unique, there are still a few things that set it apart from zombies in other stories. The zombies or "Beaters" as they are called in Aftertime, only like eating skin. They don't get off on eating body parts or tearing out your internal organs to have a feast. Nope, these guys love skin, hence the reason why Cass's back is torn to shreds when we are first introduced to her. Also, these zombies are not stupid, mindless creatures. Some of them have retained knowledge from their pasts, which is why 1 may try talking while another might try pushing a wheel barrel down the street, etc. While they may try biting you on the spot, they much rather take you back to their "nest" so they can feast on your flesh without being interrupted. Yuck!

Even though this story is about Cass and her grim determination to find her daughter and come to terms with her past, Littlefield brilliantly shows us the deterioration of human society through Cass's journey and the people she meets along the way. From those who rather live in isolation and fend for themselves to the Rebuilders who feed off people's fear in order to rebuild society in the way they see fit, to the junkie camps-- a place for people to trade things in order to get their next fix and rather drown themselves in alcohol and drugs then face reality. And lastly, the religious fanatics.

Let me not forget to mention Smoke. Sexy, mysterious Smoke, the man who helps Cass continue her search for her daughter and stirs something deep within her heart...

Okay so now for my dislikes. I can honestly say that my issues with this book has nothing to do with the author, but whoever was her editor. The editor did a shitty job for several reasons. One is the ungodly long run-on sentences here and there, the major one being on page 102. The sentence goes on for 12 lines and is marked as if it is one big paragraph. Sometimes run-on sentences work, but not in this case.

There are also parts in the book where the author contradicts herself. For example, on page 123, Cass takes her shirt off, looks at her back in the mirror, and comes to the conclusion that the wounds weren't as bad as she expected and that they are healing fast. Then on page 140, Cass acts like she never had looked at herself in the mirror 30 pages before and is completely horrified by what she sees. Another contradition is when Cass and Smoke reach the library where there are other survivors. Smoke is only patted down to make sure he is not carrying any weapons. Cass, on the other hand, is taken into a bathroom by a woman who used to be her friend. There, Cass has to completely strip out of her clothes. Now, I get the trip to the bathroom was so that her friend could have a moment of privacy to tell her important information about Cass's missing daughter. I even get that the author needed a way for Cass's friend to see the scars on her back for a specific plot purpose. However, it makes no sense for Smoke only to be patted down while Cass has to get completely naked in order to prove she has no weapons on her.

While you might think the run-on senstences and contradictions may be the author's fault, I put the blame more on the editor since they are the ones who are supposed to read the book for the sole purpose of correcting errors such as these.

Overall, this was a solid first book in what I believe is going to be a trilogy. The second in the series-- Rebirth-- is already out. So if you are having trouble weeding through the hundreds of zombie themed books in search for something different, Aftertime is definitely worth it.