Back when I was bored outta my mind with the endless parade of sameness in the New Release aisle (seriously, someone needs to dismantle the Alpha Male Cloning Facility pronto,) I remembered the LUNA imprint at Harlequin from a few years back. Thanks to Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings movies and books, I suspect, the Fantasy genre had a boom in the early 2000s. That’s kinda fizzled, sadly. There was so much more variety than just the blood-sucking dead guys you find in straight-out Paranormal Romance. But, anyeway…
So, I went searching back through LUNA’s booklist and found some previously unnoticed gems and Aftertime is one of them. I’m not a trendy girl. I like all great stories all the time. This one’s from the zombie trend, which is still hanging in there with The Walking Dead. I dislike the gore and pointless violence of this kind of story, but am utterly fascinated with how the characters handle their world turned upside down and also the world-building. I get that thrill from any story with those two aspects, like Titanic. I’ve read World War Z, the book the movie is based on. The movie is great, but the book is better. That’s almost always the case. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed Carrie Ryan’s series which starts with The Forest of Hands and Teeth.
Aftertime takes place in the months following the zombie apocalypse. Before that, Cass made a mess of her life. She chose her addictions over her baby daughter and lost custody. With all of humanity hitting rock bottom along with her, what really matters in life, what makes it worth living, becomes vivid, front and center for her. She becomes driven by one of the most primitive and powerful instincts.
Motherhood. Totally get that.
With her fractured memories of the past and the present in shambles, Cass struggles with making sense of it all. She staggers relentlessly towards the goal of finding and getting her daughter back. Guess only that kind of determination can meet or exceed a zombie. Huh? Yes, she does have flashes of serious doubt, times when it’d be so easy to just let herself get killed.
One of the problems with zombie novels is the believability. If you have any scientific knowledge, you know how most of them just don’t make sense. I mean, come on, human bodies decompose too quickly for the buggers to be still staggering around after several years. Aftertime doesn’t have that problem. The explanation for the zombies’ existence is entirely believable.
Cass is stumbling along and makes the desperate choice to take a young teen hostage to try to get into a survivors’ stronghold to see if her daughter’s there. Thankfully, it’s recognized that she’s not a zombie herself (they’re mostly called ‘Beaters’ in this fictional universe) and that she had no intention of harming the girl. She gets to eat, sleep, and even bathe. She also meets Smoke, a very male survivor.
It comes to light that Cass somehow survived a Beater attack on her previous community, a group of survivors holed up in an old library. Her now-toddler daughter was somehow rescued, but Cass was somehow separated out and lost on the roads during the chaos.
Of course, Cass wants to get back to the library to reunite with her daughter, but Smoke and the others let her know that it’s been taken over by the Rebuilders. They pass themselves off as the saviors, but, really, the Rebuilders are just trying to seize an opportunity to take over. Never waste a good crisis, you know.
Cass sets out for the library with Smoke and they encounter interesting people along the way, like Lyle, the dude held up along in a building. He saves them from a Beater attack and offers hospitality afterwards. And on they go.
Cass and Smoke do make it to the library, and into the custody of the Rebuilders who do not like Smoke one bit. Cass likes Smoke though. And their grow relationship is believably portrayed. Their goose seems cooked, but they’ve got friends on the inside. From them, Cass learns where her daughter is now.
Okay, so as if the Beaters and the Rebuilders aren’t enough, poor Cass now has to deal with a bunch of religious wackoes too. They’re taking in females only, and one of them is her precious baby girl. To get her back, Cass’ll have to pretend she’s just as nutty as the rest of them. But, there’s no stopping a mommy, you know.
Sophie Littlefield has an extensive backlist, including three more novels in this series. I heartily suggest you pop over for a look-see. You won’t be disappointed, promise. http://sophielittlefield.com/books-adults.php