California has been reduced to a barren wasteland by a failed scientific experiment that created horrific creatures called Beaters. They are people who have turned savage, mutilating themselves, eating skin (both theirs and others’), and generally spreading around their sickness. Because of these creatures and the bioterrorism that created them, the government has fallen apart, leaving people to form their own factions and live by their own laws. Cass Dollar woke up horribly scarred and alone with no memory of the injuries, where she is, or how much time has passed. She also doesn’t know where her daughter, Ruthie, is or if she’s ok or if she’s even alive. Her daughter is everything to her and her main goal (besides, obviously, surviving) is to find her at any cost. Cass’s journey will take her to unlikely places and encounter many different types of people, but she will never stop trying to get to Ruthie.
I wasn’t expecting a lot from Aftertime because it was published by Luna, an offshoot of Harlequin. I figured the zombie aspect would take a backseat to the romance because of this and prepared myself accordingly. I was completely wrong and I am very impressed with Aftertime. Although there is some measure of romance with Smoke, the sexy, mysterious man who helps Cass, the real story of the novel is about the love of a mother for her child and the lengths she will go to protect her. Cass hasn’t always been a great mom. Before the Beaters, she was a promiscuous alcoholic and, as a result, Ruthie was taken away from her. When she woke up, she tries to turn it all around with perseverance and will alone. She still isn’t a perfect character, but I think anyone could relate to her (well, except maybe super judgmental people) because we all make mistakes. Even with her colorful past, I like Cass and I admire that she braves death and dismemberment to make amends and protect her child where so many other people would just stay save and give up.
This post-apocalyptic world is unique to others of its kind. Different factions argue for power and some stay neutral to befriend both sides. The Rebuilders try to take supplies and locations from people in the name of the government which no longer exists. They intimidate and harm people in the name of their false cause and make a lot of enemies. The Box is a small slice of hedonism that will sell drugs, booze, music, and sex in exchange for supplies. I’ve never really seen something like it in post-apocalyptic books, but it makes sense. People want to escape reality and drown their sorrows and now there are no laws in place to stop the drug and sex trade. The third faction is the Convent, a mysterious sect of religious women. Although devout in their own brand of religion, there is something weird about them, but they keep in the good graces of the Box and the Rebuilders to do trade and preserve their safety. They are incredibly creepy, but you’ll have to read to find out why.
The zombies in Aftertime aren’t they typical undead variety, but they are frightening nonetheless. They only like to eat skin, instead of indiscriminately chowing down on any given body part. I think this is even more frightening because chewing off your skin isn’t likely to kill you. You will be slowly tortured by being flayed and then turned into one of them. They are alive, so are frailer than the undead, but they don’t seem to feel pain the same way and can push their limits beyond what normal humans can. I really like this new take on zombies and I can’t wait to see where else Sophie Littlefield takes them, especially if the virus evolves.
Aftertime is an excellent zombie novel that surprised me with its realistic characters, post-apocalyptic societies, and crazy reimagining of zombies. The only negative aspects of the book were some editing problems, but I barely noticed them because the writing and story were so engaging. I would recommend this to any zombie fan and I eagerly await the next book, Rebirth.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins