Cass wakes up, does not know where she is and how much time has passed since her last memory. Her hair has been pulled out, her arms are covered in scabs and her back feels raw and is painful with every movement. She slowly realizes the truth, has been attacked by the Beaters, and survived, but how? Cass does not concern herself with these questions, all she knows is that she has to get up, get moving, before the Beaters come back to finish off what they have started. Cass is driven by one of the most primal needs, the need to find her daughter, in this Aftertime. Cass will search far and wide for her daughter, travel to places she has never been before and see how the Aftertime has affected the humanity of the world. Few people will trust a stranger, an outsider these days especially if they were to see her wounds, scabs and scars, but she finds salvation in Smoke. A dangerous, mysterious man who becomes Cass's protector and saviour in a world where people will shoot first and ask questions later especially if you have something they want. In a landscape that has be burned, scarred, almost destroyed and with Beater, Cults and Opportunist waiting around every corner Cass and Smoke set out on a life changing journey to find Cass's daughter.
First, I love the cover, great job whomever designed it. It is what originally drew me to this book.
I really liked Littlefields spin on Zombies, or as she has named them Beaters. Zombies are created with the ingestion of a specific plant, either from the spore or eating the plant itself. This plant was "accidentally" speard over California and the Zombie race was created. Where Littlfield's ideas differ from the Zombie books I have read is that an individual who becomes a Zombie, becomes what I like to think of is something similar to what prehistoric Man would be like (well minus the taste/need for eating other people or themselves). But Littlefield does a great job to portray them as simple beings, but who also have the ability to learn and strategize the longer an individual is a Beater especially if they are part of a group. I personally thought this was a fantastic change from the straight forward not too bright Zombie as it creates a more scary Zombie. They are beings that has the thirst for fresh and alive human flesh that is able to learn the best way to get it, sounds pretty scary to me.
Littlefield also has a talent for world building, she does a fantastic job in setting up this post apocalyptic world, some of the best I have read in a long time. I also like to think that Cass and the world Littlefield has created are one in the same (maybe as a metaphor) as they are both scarred and damaged goods, but there can be regrowth and healing done, it just takes time and the want to change.
I do like Cass as a character, but she did begin to ware on me as I neared the end of the book. I wish there would have been a little bit more growth in her character. I understand that she is troubled and that she does not believe she deserves anything in life including love and maybe even her daughter, but it seemed like she was always contemplating her faults, and not realizing that in Aftertime, everything that occurred Before, no longer mattered. Do not get me wrong she does make some strides, however, I just wanted her to get there a touch faster, accept things and really get to what is important now. We do get some hints about Cass's past, why she becomes an addict and alcoholic but I did find that these came a little later within the book than I would have liked. I remember questioning it earlier within the book, but I am glad that Littlefield explore it, even if it was only slightly. That said I really like that Littlefield did not create a perfect character, which I find has been occurring more and more in the paranormal genre. Cass has more depth as a character than any female protagonist that I have read about in a long time, Littlefield was not scared to have something more to a female protagonist than smart whit and kickass attitude (which dont get me wrong I like, but it seems to get a bit redundant when they are all like that).
My one main criticism of this book is I found my self questioning the amount of time that had occurred from Before to Aftertime, it only seemed at times months had passed but at other times a year or so. I found this just a slightly confusing at times but it did not over take from my overall enjoyment of the story, just made me have a "huh, how much time has passed?" thought.
I think this is a great start to a new series (or at least I hope it is a series), as the book ends before I wanted it to. I think Littlefield could have easily written a 600 page book or more. I was disappointed when the book ended as I wanted to read more to find out what happens next in this world. I still have questions about Smoke and who he is and how he fits into everything. Littlefield does do a good job in keeping him a mystery and only revealing hints of who he is both past and present. So all this said I was thoroughly entertained with Littlefields book, there were a few slow areas, but these were over shadowed by the world and characters that she has build. Littlfield may be the new Zombie writer on the block but I think her Atfertime book holds it own to some authors that have been writing for along time I am anxiously waiting the sequel to this book. I hope that Littlfield writes fast.