By David Moody
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pub Date: October 26, 2010
I had almost picked Autumn up a few times, but something else always grabbed my attention first. I finally bought a copy and was pleasantly surprised. Unlike standard American zombie fare Moody doesn’t rely on nihilism, incessant action, scientific “fact” to explain the plot, or excessive gore. No, instead, he presents an apocalyptic world that has a building, slow creep that gets under your skin. The instinctive fear of the dead is enough…and then Moody begins ratcheting the terror in an atmospheric way.
Without warning, a virus strikes and within minutes billions are dead. In a fictitious city in the north of England, a handful of survivors congregate in a community center. They are grieving and damaged from what they have seen and who they have lost. They are cold, uncomfortable, and confused. Days go by like this. This was a great and effective set up because without a lot of details about the characters it was easy to empathize with their reactions. What do you do after 99% of the world dies before your very eyes? Fear and non-action are dangerous.
And then some the dead started rising. Everyone is ready to freak out. “Aggggggggggg, zombies!”, right? Well, yes, but they simply stumble around and didn’t react to the survivors. Again, very creepy, but not terrifying. Moody has gone back to our base fears about the dead. The waiting for something to happen begins to drive some of the survivors to the edge. Some want to barricade the doors and never go outside again, no matter the short-sightedness of that plan, and others want to find more suitable accommodations.
Ultimately, three people leave the community center: Michael, who worked in corporate computers, Emma, a nursing student, and Carl, a mechanic who has lost his partner and young daughter. They have no special skills and their personalities feel genuine. They are just people – annoying at times, showing signs of PTSD, and struggling in the new world. After much driving and bickering, and as a trio they do bicker, they arrive at a farm in the middle of nowhere.
They attempt to make it defendable and stock up on provisions from nearby villages. Instead of ever making this sound idyllic, Moody constantly reminds us of the stress these people are under simply waiting for something to happen. And, of course, eventually it does.
Overall the book is very light on action, but very heavy on tension. The set up and build was very effective and as soon as I was done with the book I ordered the second in the series and pre-ordered the next ones.
Interestingly, this book started as something the author posted on the web and gave away for free. I think that as a genre, horror is definitely benefiting from the way the web and self-publishing is allowing quality work rise to the top and discovered by fans. We always want more fresh blood, right?