cover - The cover is what caught my eye - red, stark, barbwire fence, woman in the background. No need to say more - it pulls your eye to the novel, and then the blurb did the rest.
It took me a long while to decide to buy this novel, even though I had been eyeing it for a while. This book has been out for a couple years now. The blurb mentions zombie like creatures and I'm not always up for zombies, the whole thing squicks me out. However, I finally decided I wanted to read it, because it focused on a woman surviving.
The subject matter seems bleak. The world had changed, and you find out how much gradually as you read. You're pulled into Cass's story and find out in bits and pieces just how rough she's had it, not just in the present, but even "beforetime". Beforetime is before things went bad, before weird things happened to people, before things started failing and the government seemed to have just given up on people. The government seems to have caused the problem in the first place, and before they quite gave up - after they destroyed the earth, trees, animals, etc they did develop this too-good-to-be-true plant that has all the protein and nutrients one would need to eat and survive. It can even be used for a toothbrush (this struck me as a bit much, but it is fiction/fantasy, so..whatever - or author's prerogative) and was the only thing that would grow.
There's not quite zombies, but these are bad enough. Humans who have been infected with something that causes them to crave first their own flesh and then un-diseased skin. It's seriously creepy and gross. Thankfully the book isn't just about these "beaters" but also the story of how Cass finds herself missing some time, far away from shelter and with mysterious injuries. She eventually realized that not only has she been infected, but she has survived without turning into a beater. Problem is, she also remembers losing her daughter - but not exactly how.
Aftertime tells the story of how Cass learns a little more about what happened to her, and searches for her daughter dealing with not just one, but two weird and dangerous factions who are trying to take over whatever they can. These two factions are a threat to the regular survivors who have banded together and have been trying to exist together. There are the Rebuilders and then this convent of women and children who have strange ideas of how to cure the disease that causes beaters.
Cass's story is told gradually, with bits and pieces explained as the story progresses. She's a little flawed, a bit of a mess, but she's trying to hold on to herself and is very focused on her daughter. While the atmosphere is a bit bleak - the setting is at first without plants, animals, even birds - slowly, there are threads of hope weaved into the story. A sapling growing here and there, the sound of animals in the distance. At the same time, the once mainly brain challenged beaters seem to be gathering a type of strategy to hunt the diseased free. Cass is able to get to a group of survivors where she meets a man named Smoke; Smoke decides to help her search for her missing daughter.
Though the tone of the book seems to be bleak, it's not quite hopeless. People are surviving and as Cass and Smoke travel they meet both people who help and people who are dangerous. The dialogue is good, the narration works well and once I started reading I was pretty engrossed til I came to the end of the story. I have the second book ready to read, but I needed a break from flesh eaters before I get back into it. Littlefield has written a story that's easy to read even as it's a little hard to read. I was into the book, even though the subject matter was hard for me - cannibal like sick people, missing kids, bleak future, with people taking advantage. But again - still and engrossing read. you want Cass to find her daughter and get away from the cults and Rebuilders, and there's mystery surrounding this Smoke guy. So....kind of interested to see what's going to happen in the sequel - Rebirth and the in-between short e-book, Survivors.