First published back in November of 2012, ‘Autumn: Aftermath’ formed British author David Moody’s fifth and last full-length instalment into his signature ‘Autumn’ zombie series (the sixth book after the companion book ‘Autumn: The Human Condition’ (2005)).
It’s now thirty-six days since the infection reduced humanity to just a few remaining survivors; struggling to remain within a world where the dead have risen and are tearing apart those left. Since the epidemic first hit, Alan Jackson has tried all sorts of places to hide away within. Now he’s hauled up in a cottage, quietly waiting out the days, hidden away from the rotting eyes of the dead.
But with a sudden change in heart Jackson decides he needs somewhere more secure. Somewhere where the dead could never reach him. Like the prison he’d previously tried to hide away in, but this time without all the dead locked away inside with him. And from out of the cottage window he can see the ideal place. Cheetham Castle. Protected by towering walls that are virtually impenetrable along with a huge impassable wooden gate – Cheetham Castle would undoubtedly prove to be one of the most secure and protected of locations to wait this thing out in.
However, upon breaking into the castle via a secret entrance, taking him underneath the castle and out though its dungeons, Jackson emerges into the closed-off interior of the huge stone structure, only to find a shotgun pointed at his face. It appears that Jackson wasn’t the only one to realise the potential in Cheetham Castle.
Luckily, the man with the shotgun, Kieran Cope, is happy to welcome Jackson into the relative safety of the castle. Together with Melanie Hopper and Shirley Brinksford, the activity of the four survivors within the secured-off castle not only attracts vast swarms of the dead outside the huge stone walls, but also other survivors in the vicinity, until the population in Cheetham Castle is at seventeen.
With the bitterly cold winter creeping closer, the survivors find that they have to make more and more daring raids outside of the castle to stock up on supplies for the long cold months ahead. However, the pressures of living in such close vicinity with each other, with hordes of the dead swarming outside, is beginning to wear down the psychological morale for a number of those in the castle.
And then, from out of the blue, a bus arrives outside; charging though the thick rotting mass of dead that encircle the castle walls. Opening the gates to the new arrival, the survivors within Cheetham Castle are amazed to see that there are still more people out there. And this one man, Anthony Kent, (better known as Driver) comes with news that others are out there. He’s just left the nearby Bromwell Hotel where he has been hauled up with another group like this one. Only they’re now totally surrounded by a mass of the dead.
And so the survivors in Cheetham Castle have a difficult decision to face. Do they risk it all to bring back this group of fellow survivors, cut off and surrounded by vast hordes of the dead? They have a choice to make. And it’s one that will ultimately end up changing the whole dynamic of the group…
Here, it is, the final instalment into Moody’s epic post-apocalyptic zombie series. And with ‘Aftermath’ Moody doesn’t disappoint. From the very first page to the heart-pounding conclusion – this final book is a truly magnificent piece of gritty, emotionally-wrought, action-rich and utterly tense, end-of-the-world fiction.
Following on from where ‘Autumn: Disintegration’ (2011) left off, the book continues with the same group of survivors trapped within the Bromwell Hotel, as well as bringing in a healthy handful of additional characters and the very-much-missed group from the initial books, who have since been living on the island of Cormansey. Furthermore, a number of the stories within the 2013 reissue of ‘Autumn: The Human Condition’ (2005) further link up the various groups of survivors – filling in the gaps and fleshing-out their individual backstories of how they came to be where they are.
Indeed, in bringing together all of these groups within this final instalment makes for a particularly touching and appropriately concluding tale. Of course, the various conflicting characters were never going to get on all that well. In particular, Jas from ‘Autumn: Disintegration’ (2011) has become even more of a scared and forcefully overbearing individual – making life for those in Cheetham Castle even more problematic.
And once again this highlights the absolute joy of these books. Moody has created characters that feel real. They’re all individual, have their own baggage, and react differently to the deeply traumatic situation that they’re each having to cope with. And within the relatively cramped confines of the castle, they’re tolerance with such conflicting personalities is really put to the test.
What’s perhaps the most noticeably different about this final instalment is the changing evolution of the dead. These walking corpses haver continued to decay, and by halfway through the novel, the levels of the disintegration is quite frankly nauseating. With masses of the dead pushing and shoving each other outside the castle walls, after a number of months of such compressed rotting flesh, the end result is nothing short of a congealed mess of decay, rot and putrefaction. Gore and filth that we get to experience in all its foul glory, time and again throughout the latter half of the book.
Moody has clearly put a great deal of thought into the decaying stages of the dead. Like with ‘Autumn: The Human Condition’ (2005), Moody shows how these changes take place over a gradual period of time, most notably with how the dead who are exposed to the elements outside are affected. From being frozen stiff during the cold winter months, to ending up as mass swamps of decaying purification within the castles moat – Moody shows how the good old British weather has its own part to play in the last stages of the apocalypse.
All in all, this final instalment is quite simply an incredibly fitting concluding book to the series. It ties in the characters, brings to the table a truthful hope, and lays down a lasting vision of what has happened to the world. Its impact and emotional weight is incredible. Furthermore, there’s just so much crammed into the book. So many twists in the plot. So much change. So much to keep the reader drawn into the aftermath of Moody’s post-apocalyptic world.
The novel runs for a total of 376 pages.
on 11 January 2013
I eventually gave this book four stars, not three, because David Moody brings all the characters from the series together and produces an ending which is quite a bit more than OK. I don't read this genre very much but like his writing style. He has a different 'take' on the infected which was interesting at the end. As with other post-apocolyptic books though I can't believe that there aren't more altruistic people left. The meek probably won't inherit the earth, but I rather think that the strong and positive will - in the end. Or is that wishful thinking on my part. Usually I re-read books I like after a year or two, but I expect I will take this series over to the USA next time I'm there for my 18 year old grandson. The story line is exciting without being completely given over to blood and gore, though the descriptive parts of the zombies after they start disintegrating are not for the feint hearted!
on 26 November 2012
Today's review sees the end of what can only be described as an utterly epic series of books, Autumn by David Moody. Autumn: Aftermath is the fifth and final entry in the series. Could Moody maintain the standard set by the first four entries in the series?
Considering that the first Autumn novel was unleashed in 2001, it is impressive that Moody's writing style has remained consistent. He has created a universe which is bleak, full of dread; and he has continued to evolve his characters in keeping with the ordeals they are faced with. Similarly, Moody's undead have deteriorated at a rate that has left them in a gruesome state of decay, leaving the landscape covered in an unholy, nightmarish sludge of human remains and assorted grim detritus.
The strength of the plot of the Autumn series, and continuing in Aftermath, has always been the characters and their struggles, aside from the horrifying postapocalyptic situation they have found themselves in. Dealing with bickering, in-fighting, personality clashes, power-struggles and other features of what could be considered normal life, the consequences of which are significantly amplified when set in a world where the dead have risen, creating an environment where tempers are more easily frayed and matters are likely to explode... literally. Additionally for me, the plot of Aftermath, at a point, takes an unforeseeable and deeply unsettling turn that only serves to continue to set apart the Autumn series from lessed contemporaries in the postapocalyptic sub-genre.
Some of the entries in the series have been criticised for being stand-alone sequels with no real tie to their predecessors other than being set in the same universe and centring on the same cataclysmic event. I can understand how, at the time of reading, on e of the titles from the series may appear as such. However, Aftermath takes the threads of the previous novels and weaves them together perfectly, answering many of the questions left by previous Autumn novels and surprising the reader with some real revelations.
Although the series and indeed Aftermath is decidely more cerebral than the average book about the walking dead, that is not to say that the final entry in the Autumn series is devoid of action. The continual onslaught of the undead is a given in these stories but Aftermath is littered with action sequences, explosions, deaths and rescue attempts... and how many stories of the undead have you read that focus on a castle?!
I've never made any secret of the fact that I LOVE postapocalyptic horror or that I try and support British horror as much as I can; the Autumn series is, in short, more than worthy of your attention. A decade or so ago, Moody took a real gamble and released Autumn on the internet for free. Ultimately, the gamble paid off and Autumn got a big screen adaptation and the film rights to one of his other stories, Hater, has been snapped up by Guillermo del Toro. If you need further evidence of the calibre of these books, look no further than award-winning author Jonathan Maberry (Patient Zero, Bad Moon Rising) who said of Autumn that: "This is smart fiction, written with style and insight. Not for the gore-hounds who can't think past a pile of entrails, but the rest of the readers in the world."
on 16 July 2014
I've been looking forward to this book for what seems like years. Finally I got it, and it was so worth the wait! This is the last book in the Autumn series, and I'm sad that it's over. Ever since reading Hater, I've been hooked on this author, and would recommended his books to anyone :) Without a doubt one the best zombie style book I've ever read.