In a matter of moments, a strange infection strikes without warning, wiping out the vast majority of humans. Millions dropped dead in an instant, leaving those who survived trying to understand what happened. And then they dead began to wake up, struggling to their feet and seeking the last remaining survivors.
One small group of survivors makes their way to Cheetham Castle, hoping that the castle walls would provide the much-needed protection they'd been seeking. But as the months pass and winter begins to settle in, the idyllic life they'd all imagined begins to sour. Survivors butt heads, forming two groups: those who want to wait the winter out, safe behind the closed castle walls, and those who want to take advantage of the frozen dead, making their way to the nearest towns to scavenge for food and supplies.
Meanwhile, another pocket of survivors manages to set up life on Cormansey, a small island off the coast. They've cleared the island of the living dead and are well on their way to regaining some level of normalcy. Trips need to be made to the mainland for supplies, though, and with fuel running low, a new means of transport to and from the island needs to be found. During their last trip to the coastal town of Chadwick for supplies and to rig a few boats for the journey across the water, the islanders run into a lone survivor who tells them about the others at the castle. Believing that bringing the fellow survivors to the island can only help everyone, they travel to the castle to offer their assistance. But some in the castle aren't so ready to leave the safety of the stone walls, and their refusal may prove deadly for everyone.
Though most of the characters have appeared throughout the previous Autumn novels, author David Moody provides enough background information in Autumn: Aftermath that reading those novels isn't necessary -- though I highly recommend it, if only to provide a more well-rounded view of events. And he manages to step up the creepiness level of the living dead by showing them in winter, frozen in place like snow-covered statues. The survivors slowly made their way through them, all the while noticing the subtle movements of arms or a twitch of the eyes, making the living very aware that the threat was still there, and a quick rise in temperature could catch them offguard.
But what I liked best about Autumn: Aftermath is that with only a few words, the whole outlook of the living dead and what they truly are comes into question. Perhaps like the survivors, I viewed Autumn's living dead with the same preconceived notion of what a zombie is and does, and in re-thinking the earlier novels, did I assume that the dead must be the aggressors? It begs the question as to who the real monsters are, and now, I want to go back and re-read each of the books with a new insight to see how that changes the story.
Autumn: Aftermath brings Moody's Autmun series to a satisfying conclusion. (And yes, I'm sad to see it end.)
by David Moody
Thomas Dunne Books (March 2012) trade paperback, 388pgs
Received book from publisher