Friday, November 8, 2013

Review: Aftertime Series by Sophie Littlefield

Aftertime Series (Aftertime, Rebirth, Horizon)
by Sophie Littlefield

First, let me say that all three books (Aftertime, Rebirth, and Horizon) were immensely satisfying. When I wanted zombies, Littlefield delivered in a way that left me pleasantly surprised. Her zombies are not cliché and the story behind them is incredibly creative.

In Littlefield's post-apocalyptic world, K734IV is the code name of a nutritional mass full of protein, calcium, vitamins, and fiber, developed and grown in labs. It was later shortened to K7, then to kaysev. It is still unknown how blueleaf came to be--whether it was in the kaysev seed that was dumped all over California or if it evolved on its own.

Knowing wouldn't matter, though, because those who eat the blueleaf--if they happen to survive the fever it induces--experience a high very much like ecstasy. That is, until they start chewing off their own skin. When there isn't any more flesh on their own bodies that can be reached, they find others.
"The slow madness, the feverish twitching. The picking of the skin and pulling of the hair that slowly morphed into an unnatural, unquenchable hunger. The first nip at your own skin, finding it pleasing, the pain was nothing against the need. The hunger, growing and overwhelming, whispering in your ear as the last of your sanity slipped away, stoking the furnace of desire, until you went out into the world, no longer human but a thing of singular purpose: a hunter of flesh."

These cannibalistic zombies called beaters, these people turned hungry for human flesh, are fast and learn from their mistakes, which makes them more terrifying. They aren't for the faint of heart. And neither are these three novels.

But they aren't only about flesh-eating beaters. Littlefield has woven an intricate plot with beautifully gritty landscapes and characters with troubling pasts from Before--the time before the Siege and before people began eating flesh.

Cass Dollar awoke dirty and bearing the telltale scars of a beater attack. She recalls enduring something terrible, painful, but the memory is like a fading dream. She doesn't know how much time has passed, only that her daughter, Ruthie, has vanished--along with nearly all of civilization.

But all Cass is concerned with is getting her Ruthie back. She finds safety with Smoke, an outlaw who volunteers to leave the safety of the group he is sheltering with to help Cass find Ruthie.

I don't want to spoil your fun, so I will leave out the spoilers. In Rebirth and Horizon, we still follow Cass and get an in-depth look at her inner turmoil as we learn more of her past experiences. We are also treated to her loved ones' angst and the experiences that torment them and shape their decisions.

Even as the dim reality makes you want to look away, the story compels you. The thread of hope maintains, leaving an unquenchable hunger for more--much like the beaters' hunger for flesh.