Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Aftertime, by Sophie Littlefield (by DeadVida)

By Sophie Littlefield
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Luna
Pub Date: February 15, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0373803361
I’ve got a thing for well-written damaged characters, as well as unreliable narrators. They make you work a little harder, and for that they usually tend to force you into their worlds. In AFTERTIME the damaged physical and psychological worlds Sophie Littlefield has created are adroitly crafted.
Cass Dollar is a Grade A damaged character surviving in a broken world. She is a survivor in every sense of the word. She survived a childhood of abuse, an adulthood where she self-abused (with alcohol and sex), and now the Aftertime, filled with violence, death, and famine. She has been sober for a while, so she is aware of her addiction, but at the same time the reasons she felt the need to numb herself are still there, still demanding succor.
Creating a realistic world after cataclysmic events is harder than it looks, and Littlefield’s earth walks that fine line of familiarity and unknown. Bio-warfare has caused massive world-wide famine and ecological destruction with plant species of all kinds wiped out. This leads  the government to try and help by creating genetically altered plants with complete nutritive values. That goes awry and one of the plants, the blueleaf, leads to fever, madness, and cannibalism. Those who live past the fever are called Beaters and they are just one threat to the existence of the survivors.
The behavior of the Beaters is genuinely disturbing. Within the first few pages I realized that the content was going to offer some real horror when Cass watched a deranged woman appear to start to kiss someone. “The woman shook her head and only then did Cass realize she’s sunk her teeth into the man’s flesh and was tugging at it. Tearing at it. Trying to rip off a shred.” The Beaters like to eat flesh and usually start by eating pieces of their own. Nibbling at their own arms.
Cass awakens and struggles to remember what has happened to her. Miles from home, she begins a dangerous and solitary walk back to her small town and eventually meets survivors. Again, as a complicated character she vacillates between wanting to reject everyone who comes near her and wanting acceptance, between strength and self-doubt. Her primary goal is to find her daughter, whom she had already lost once in the Before. The four miles between the school the survivors have made home and the library where Cass last saw her daughter are dangerous, and the enigmatic Smoke offers to escort her. As is often the case, the society of the “living” is as dangerous as that of the zombies (not actually dead in this case, but still zombies in my book).
Smoke is a little too good to be true at times and slightly two-dimensional. I hope that in the subsequent books he is given as much complexity as Cass. Overall, this was a worthwhile, compelling read and a world I look forward to exploring further. Recommended.

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