Aftertime--Sophie Littlefield

Aftertime is an interesting, powerful, and confusing book.  It is published by Luna Press which is a division of Harlequin Romances and this occasionally shows, though not to the detriment of the work overall.  Aftertime is an apocalypse-quasi-zombie novel.  Note, I have deliberately avoided saying a Zombie Apocalypse novel because in fact, that is the innovation Ms. Littlefield has introduced.  The plague of horrific zombie-like creatures is a result of the actions that bring about the apocalypse in the novel.  To say more would be to detract from some of the more interesting revelations along the way.

Ms. Littlefield has served up several variations on the typical zombie novel. The creatures in this book, called beaters, are, in fact, not dead.  They are victims of a fever induced by. . . well, that would be telling.  They retain human characteristics but have acquired a taste for human flesh. Because of the effects of the fever, they are largely helpless at night, but powerful and frightening predators during the day.

Our heroine, Cass, has been subject to an attack by these creatures, remembering at first very little of it.  We learn more about Cass as we go along, but suffice to say that her principle quest is to find her little daughter who was with her on the day of the attack and seems to have survived.  Cass takes up with a character named Smoke and they go on a journey through the devastated country--the most difficult part of which is making it through the two or so miles that lay between the school in which one groups of survivors live and the library in which a group led by Rebuilders lives.

The Rebuilders are, of course, their own brand of badness, but from one of them Cass comes to know that her daughter is alive and has been taken to live at the Convent.  Now the journey continues to seek out the convent.

The story is filled with action, some Zombie-related stuff--although I have to say overall, these creatures are in many ways worse that the Zombie norm.  They have some human understanding still and require that their victims remain alive during consumption.

Perhaps my one complaint about the book are the two more-or-less gratuitous sex scenes between Cass and Smoke, providing substantiation, I suppose, for their growing romance.  While not necessarily forced, they are both explicit and not particularly compelling in comparison to the surrounding writing.  But then, I need to remember, I'm probably not the target audience for this work.

Which leads one to wonder who, precisely, is the target audience.  Women who want hot romance don't usually seem to want it mixed in with zombies and zombies seem to be the very antithesis of romance entirely.

It little matters--the reader inclined to these tales of apocalypse and zombie doings could do far worse than Ms. Littlefield's opus, which is both well written and well constructed.  There is obviously room left at the end to continue the series and I have already seen the next book Rebirth on the shelves.

Recommended to ZA fans and those curious about SF/Paranormal Romance.  ****


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