Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield is the second book I’ve bought based on reading about it in a “The Big Idea” post on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. (The first book was Ian Tregillis’ excellent Bitter Seeds.) Here is a link to Sophie’s post there. “The Big Idea” posts are a really nice place where the author of an upcoming book gets to tell why they wrote the book. They can give some pretty interesting insight there.
In this, Sophie mentioned that she wanted to write a zombie book and she wanted to have a compelling heroine. Her description sounded interesting enough that I put it in my queue.
I liked Aftertime and would say that Sophie Littlefield accomplished both of her goals. In Aftertime , we start following a woman named Cass. She is the narrator and we gradually fill in that something very bad has happened. She is trying to avoid Beaters and it fairly quickly resolves that the beaters are the zombie-like aspect of the story. It seems that there were a number of biological terrorist actions against the US that resulted in the dying off of a fairly large percentage of plants and animals. In an effort to fix this the government aerially seeded a genetically modified plant that could provide people with all their daily nutritional needs. Unfortunately, included in the seeds was a mutated variety that had the effect of inducing a fever. Many people died from the initial fever. If you survived that things got worse. You rapidly lost the capacity to reason and developed a hunger for human skin. In other words, you essentially became a zombie-like creature.
When we meet Cass, we come to realize that she has been a victim of a beater attack. There are scars on her arms that are somewhat healed and scars on her back that are starting to heal but still raw.
Cass also has her own internal scars. Before (people think of the times before all this happened as before), she had been a recovering addict. Her daughter had been taken away from her by her parents. After, she had been living in a library with others when she was attacked by beaters and separated from her daughter (a toddler).
Finding her daughter becomes the driving force to her story–the quest that fuels the story. As we travel with Cass, the holes in her memory gradually fill. We spend quite a bit of time inside Cass’ thoughts and this isn’t always pleasant time. She has a lot of problems to work though–both physical, environmental and mental. So, Cass is not a perfect heroine but she is a compelling heroine. So, I would say that Littlefield accomplished both of her goals for the story.