Series: yes, first in a series
Author: Sophie Littlefield
Release date: Feb. 22, 2011 by Harlequin Luna
This book had my pulse racing for much of the time I spent reading it. The lush visuals, the emotions, the mystery and (of course) the high chill-factor made this an absolutely wonderful read. I was so spooked and unnerved, but absolutely could not tear my eyes from the page.
Book Description (partial, from author website):
Review:Awakening in a bleak landscape as scarred as her body, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls surviving something terrible. Wearing unfamiliar clothes and having no idea how many days—or 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 her Ruthie back.
So, this book has an official blurb and all, but really I think the story as a whole somewhat defies brief description. The best that one can do is to describe the beginning, which is intentionally disorienting; the protagonist herself can barely gather her wits about her enough to make coherent thoughts, and even has a chunk of time missing from her memory. What's immediately clear is that the world--at least from the protagonist's perspective--is different; something hugely substantial has happened, and the desolate landscape is almost unrecognizable.
From the moment Cassie began describing her surroundings and checkered memories, I was hooked. She's a very emotionally (and physically!) damaged individual, and spends a lot of time thinking about her failings. Her main source of guilt is the fact that she does not know the whereabouts of her two-year-old daughter, Ruthie. This in fact becomes the main driver of the story; Cassie will stop at nothing to find her child. Politics related to a post-apocalyptic environment? The fate of the world? Not the focus here; it's barely even addressed, actually. This book is all about the emotions, motivations, and perseverance of the main character. Most other characters are unimportant, save for the contributions they make to Cassie's journey; in this way, this book is very much an odyssey in the vein of...well, The Odyssey. ^_^
What's also found in spades is horror. The imagery used in this book ranges from violent and gory to chilling and quietly moving. Yes, there are zombies here, called Beaters. Indeed, there is much flesh being rent from bones. ..and yes, it all freaked the living daylights out of me. I contemplated putting the book down in a fit of whimpiness, but found it was difficult to do so; Littlefield really manages to draw the reader in with her descriptions, even the intensely grotesque ones.
The pacing of this book feels effortless; as in any good odyssey, there are moments of high-tension punctuated with some emotion and personal development. Cassie is sympathetic, and her internal struggles resonated easily. There is a romantic element in this book, though it by no means overtakes the story. I found that it was developed in a believable and understandable fashion; I appreciated that it wasn't overly sweet and dramatic, which might not have fit in with the tone and focus of the book.
So. If you decide to read this book, what can you expect? You'll find a fair amount of gore, violence and human desperation. You'll also find a vast physical and emotional journey that is both touching and haunting. This book will be the first in a series, though I'm not clear on how many books there will be in total or whether it will continue its focus on Cassie. Regarding the latter, I sure hope she remains the protagonist; I'm hooked on her personal story and will gladly freak myself out on flesh-hungry zombies to find out how she fares.
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Update (Feb. 24): I've been informed that Aftertime is first in a three book series. The second book is entitled Rebirth and is scheduled to be released on July 26; the third book, Horizon, will be released on January 31, 2012; and a short story called Survivors comes out this July (and for a time will be available for FREE). All of them will feature Cass and her gang (Smoke, Dor, etc.). Wonderful, exciting news, in my opinion!!! ^__^