I read the first Autumn book while on holiday last year at Centreparcs, a deserted woodland that was just about the perfect place to read it. I enjoyed it, perhaps not as much as I was hoping, but the way that David Moody told a bleak and eerie tale struck a chord with me and I knew that I would have to get around to the sequel when it came out. Well, out it came in January and here I am a few months down the line finally getting around to it! I may not have been in the same surrounding to read Autumn: The City, but not only did I enjoy it more than the first book, I found that it gave me more chills too. Not good while reading it during the early hours of the morning at home, alone...
Autumn: The City starts in much the same way as the first book, Autumn, although a short prologue shows that at least some people knew that it was coming as an army unit is ordered to move to a secure bunker, just making it inside in time. From there we follow a handful of people as others around them die suddenly and the world changes in an instant, with very few surviving the event. We see these individuals dealing with life in the aftermath, trying to survive and seek out other survivors, and finally grouping together at the local university. But the cadavers have changed and are no longer simply stumbling around, the new aggression they show can mean nothing good for the survivors. And then there is the army, coming out from its bunker to see what state the world is in, and finding it worse than even they imagined.
Unlike the first novel Moody doesn't take his time in exploring the death event and the immediate aftermath, from mass death to the re-animation of the corpses, in too great detail, but instead does all of this in a smoother and quicker fashion. We still get a good look at how these people are trying to cope and survive, but it isn't a day-by-day thing, more of a general look at their lives over a longer period - it works much better as it doesn't bog the story down in mundane and boring events. This has a knock-on effect to the story as Moody has covered the time period of the first novel by the time we reach the half-way point, and then we get into new and more interesting territory, seeing how the behaviour of the dead changes as more time passes. It also allows him to follow up on the fates of Michael and Emma from the first book who make a welcome return to the story, keeping that story thread going.
Other than these two returning characters there are quite a few more to follow. With a few dozen holed up at the university Moody is able to select those that we follow, and each brings something different to the story. Moody uses the characters to great effect in Autumn: The City, telling the story through their eyes and their reactions as things start to changed. It works well, but I didn't find that any particular character stood out for me, rather they all had interesting stories and acted in a way I would expect. I was slightly annoyed by the two young men who wanted to find a pub/club and have one final night on the town, but when the end of the world comes I'm sure there will be people like that about.
Story-wise there really isn't too much I could tell you that you won't have seen from lots of zombie movies that are out there, but Moody has a talent for making you feel part of events. The descriptions he uses can be chilling and eerie, completely vivid and all too real. The novel does end rather abruptly, and it's one of the main issues I had with it. Autumn was fairly self-contained, but this sequel is clearly written as part of a larger story, one I'm very much looking forward to reading.
Autumn: The City is a step up from the first book and a novel I very much enjoyed. While many zombie stories tend to follow a similar path David Moody has shown that just because the idea is old it doesn't mean it can't be re-told, and in this case with great success!