Paperback: 384 pages
Genre: Adult Dystopian
Series: Aftertime #1
Someone once said that all apocalypses are experienced locally. In the case of Cass Dollar, the nightmare occurred with the violent abduction of two-year-old Ruthie, which she vividly remembers. Only later is young Cass assaulted also by the vague, twisting memories of a much wider conflagration that she herself only narrowly survived. A government experiment had turned the entire California landscape into the hunting grounds of zombie Beaters, but Cass can only think of the helpless toddler she is missing.
If I had to describe AFTERTIME in one word, it would be: meh.
I actually thought that this was going to be a YA initially. Not entirely sure why I got the YA-vibe from the cover, but you can imagine my shock when a sexytime scene came at about the 120 page mark (I think it was around there).
Let's start from the beginning, though. This was the first book I read following my month of not reading for pleasure by the end of the college semester. I was anticipating a great read, particularly because of all the praise Littlefield's new series has received thus far. Go figure I would be the one to disagree with the public, once again.
AFTERTIME starts off well enough. The back story and world building was excellent and the imagery made me nauseous because it was so descriptive and painted such a vivid picture in my mind. I was excited about this story and about this world because of the strong start. And while I was somewhat iffy about Cass' character--primarily who she was and why I should like her--I was willing to overlook the bad to continue reading about such a rich world.
...Then shit hit the fan and my enjoyment dissipated. When Cass meets some people who are holing out in a school, I began to notice that, while the descriptions and back story were great, the character interactions were not. They're a bit too wishy-washy for my tastes and never really give me a good sense of who these people are. Why should I care that they survived? Hell, why do I care that Cass survived?
A mother searching for her daughter after the apocalypse... great concept, and if it had been executed well, it would have probably been a great tearjerker too. Alas, there are more flashbacks and less Cass reflecting on finding her daughter. When Smoke suddenly becomes the focus of Cass' desires (and I still have no idea why), it seems as if Ruthie takes a backseat to Smoke. And of course our leading man was the typical broody, mysterious "hero." He seemed to be moodier than normal on the moody hero scale... which I wouldn't have minded, had he been a bit more three dimensional.
Even with all of these weaknesses popping up, I still intended on continuing AFTERTIME, but by Christmas, it was clear I did not want to read this story anymore. Unfortunately, Cass turned into a bipolar wuss. She went from being somewhat of a likeable character into a cry baby the second someone sent her the stink eye. Her reactions, her wanting to cry at every moment, her stupidity... all of this is what ultimately made me give up on the book.
So poor characterization, the hero is not well fleshed out, the romance is sudden and rushed (with no real reason showing why the two are attracted to each other), and Cass is borderline TSTL by the time I stopped reading. Maybe she progressed further, and if she did, then I am happy I stopped reading this novel. If she cleaned up her act, then my loss.
I hate to sound harsh, but there are plenty of other adult novels out there that explore the zombiepocalypse way better than AFTERTIME did. I would recommend checking those out before you do this one. If, however, Littlefield's novel has been on your radar like it was mine, it can't hurt to give it a shot, anyway. After all, it's just cynical old me going against the majority.
Series Order:1. Aftertime