Reading level: Adult
Trade Paperback: 384 pages
Release date: February 15, 2011
Series: Aftertime #1
Reviewed by: Jenn
The world's gone.
Worse, so is her daughter.
Awakening in a bleak landscape as scarred as her body, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls surviving something terrible. Having no idea how many weeks have passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: Ruthie has vanished.
And with her, nearly all of civilization.
Where once-lush hills carried cars and commerce, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaters—people turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong.
In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsider, let alone a woman who became a zombie and somehow turned back, but she finds help from an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. Smoke is her savior, and her safety.
For the Beaters are out there.
And the humans grip at survival with their trigger fingers. Especially when they learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared, and desired, of weapons in a brave new world…
Wow. Aftertime was intense. I expected it to be heavy based on the back blurb but I wasn't expecting the book have so many truly shocking moments. Sophie Littlefield has created a gripping and gritty dystopian tale filled with interesting characters and unexpected plot twists. I could barely put it down! (I probably wouldn't have put it down at all if I wasn't on a road trip and needed to sleep for a reasonable amount of time.)
Aftertime is a scary and danger-filled place. It's all the more terrifying for Cass because she wakes up in a field, knowing she's somehow survived being taken and fed on by the Beaters. She has missing memories and has to fight to survive against an enemy that seems to be evolving. This creates a great sense of confusion and chaos, which seems pretty appropriate considering the circumstances Sophie Littlefield has imagined.
I love that Cass' driving motivation is finding her daughter. Set against such epic upheaval, her search for Ruthie is the heart of the story and, really, the heart of Cass as well. Before Ruthie, Cass didn't really value herself or her life but she tries to improve things and herself for her daughter. It's not a new story in some senses but it's a powerful one when it's executed in a thoughtful manner, which it definitely is here.
There aren't enough words to describe how much I enjoyed Aftertime, though the events weren't always pleasant. There are so many gripping moments and fantastic details that it's hard to say just what I loved about the novel. The nuances of the characters are revealed over the course of the story, with each chapter adding layers to a complex world. And the book's final third has some of the most shocking events I've ever read. Seriously, I had to go back and re-read certain parts because I just couldn't believe what some of the characters go through. There was one scene in particular that I read with my hand over my mouth because it was appalling and tough, but (unfortunately) completely suitable for the setting. You'll know it when you read it. But I think it's a mark of a talented writer when their words can really jolt the reader so kudos, Sophie Littlefield, I was horrified.
Next up, a novella, Survivors, that's available for free through Harlequin. It's set between Aftertime and the next book in the series, Rebirth. I've already downloaded it and suggest you do the same. I can't wait to find out what happens next!
P.S. My apologies if this showed up in your news feed or blog roll earlier in the week and then disappeared. It wasn’t ready then. I’m a Mac girl through and through but I’m giving Windows Live Writer a shot on Boyfriend’s PC and we’re not getting along too well just yet. Hopefully we’ll have a more harmonious relationship soon.