(Cover picture courtesy of Fangs for the Fantasy.)
A bastard hybrid of War of the Worlds and Night of the Living Dead, Autumn chronicles the struggle of a small group of survivors forced to contend with a world torn apart by a deadly disease.
After 99 percent of the population of the planet is killed in less than twenty-four hours, for the very few who have managed to stay alive, things are about to get much worse.
Animated by “phase two” of some unknown contagion, the dead begin to rise. At first slow, blind, dumb, and lumbering, quickly the bodies regain their most basic senses and abilities—sight, hearing, locomotion—as well as the instinct toward aggression and violence.
Held back only by the restraints of their rapidly decomposing flesh, the dead seem to have only one single goal—to lumber forth and destroy the sole remaining attraction in the silent, lifeless world: those who have survived the plague, who now find themselves outnumbered one million to one.
This isn’t a zombie novel in the traditional bite-and-you-get-infected-zombie sense of the word, but it is still a zombie novel. Just because these zombies don’t seem threatening in the beginning (when they’re blind, dumb and lumbering around aimlessly) doesn’t mean that the world of Autumn isn’t terrifying—because it most definitely is.
David Moody is a master of suspense and although that’s a term that’s been tossed around a lot, it is very true in this case. Autumn is three hundred pages of slowly building terror, anxiety and overall waiting for the shoe to drop. And when the shoe does drop, man does it ever drop! Things get really bad, really quickly and everything Carl, Emma and Michael have done to survive thus far is nearly worthless. David Moody throws all of the worst things possible at his characters and it’s obvious he has no thoughts about sparing them any pain, which is why Autumn is such a good book: there is no “good guys always win”. Bad things happen to good people and there’s none of the kind of retribution the heroes get for being good in the end, as is so common in both books and movies. Some reviews I’ve read have mentioned his simplistic writing style being annoying and I must admit it takes a bit of getting used to, but the fact is that the style suits the novel and is incredibly effective at conveying the aura of suspense.
All of the main characters deal with the trauma of seeing nearly all of the people around them die horribly in a fit of coughing that suffocates them about as well as you’d imagine. David Moody paints a very realistic picture of what would happen with the survivors (psychologically speaking, anyway), aside from the fact that no one ever called the walking dead “zombies.” Let’s face it, if dead people suddenly got up and started walking around (even if they weren’t trying to bite or infect) your first thought would be “Zombies!” That’s a little unbelievable, but I can understand that David Moody was trying to write a zombie novel without ever using the dreaded Z Word.
One thing that is sort of annoying is that we don’t get into the science of the outbreak. This is just a personal preference because I like to know how things work in general, so it might not bother most people. However, I do like how it’s dealt with because the characters accept that there’s no point in knowing what caused the disease because they couldn’t do anything about it anyway. Survival was more important than causation in their eyes, and in their situation I think 99% of people would react the same way. Since this is a series, I expect that in later books David Moody will give a more in-depth explanation, especially since the epilogue makes it seem like the surviving characters are going to find other survivors who may have more knowledge about the disease.
Even if you don’t like “zombie novels” per se, I would definitely recommend Autumn. If you like suspense, tales of survival and apocalyptic fiction, you will love David Moody’s novel. Personally, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series, if only to see what disease causes the dead to rise.
I give this book 5/5 stars.