Autumn - The City is the follow up to the sensational zombie novel Autumn, promising the same power and subtle horror of the first.
It takes a lot of guts to start a story again right from the beginning but told from a different perspective - a brave move that could have gone horribly wrong. Instead the author has managed to improve over the already impressive Autumn with less time spent on the actual changes the undead go through, resulting in a much faster pace and sleeker narrative while keeping the story fresh and appealing. This also has the advantage of allowing new readers to jump straight in without having read the previous novel (although I still recommend you do).
Already knowing what disaster plays out also allows the reader to concentrate more on the characters and their own reactions to the situation, which are very well thought out and as realistic as you could expect. There is still the same issue that all the people that have survived never seem to have read a Zombie novel or watched a film though but having said that these aren't the flesh eating Zombies that modern culture has formed. Instead they hark back to an older time and individually remain as weak as you'd expect a month old corpse to be and yet do still retain a rage against the living.
Half way through the novel we are re-introduced to the characters from the first novel, still surviving and living in a camper van close to the city where most of the story takes place. I love that the author has kept the characters of Michael and Emma, it gives a great feeling of continuity and also helps to define the point that marks the timeline between the original ending and the new developments of the undead horde.
The characters and their reactions to the situation around them is the real highlight of the novel and it's something the author manages to carry out to great effect, at no point was my sense of belief in the events questioned and the way that the author manages to write such tense and vivid narrative is nothing short of brilliant. I also loved the scenes with the army people which seemed nicely underplayed and managed to avoid a gung-ho macho approach that many novels fall foul of.
There is the same bleak and down to earth voice that the first novel possessed, an quietly intense atmosphere that manages to heighten the tension and delivers a much more effective psychological terror that those over the top gore stories never quite attain. Moody has a real talent for suspense and this shows even more clearly here than in the previous book.
Where the first novel was clearly written to be a fairly self contained story, it's clear that Autumn - The City is designed to be part of a larger story and this does include a quite abrupt ending, one that really does leave you wanting more. The second part of the novel moves the overall story forward very effectively although it does often raise more questions that it answers.
I love how this story focuses on the micro events of a zombie apocalypse, how the individual every day person copes rather than a sweeping world wide story and it manages to capture the futility of the struggle against such an unstoppable menace. The slow development of the undead and the well thought out survival of the last remnants of humanity manage to engage the interest and create a close emotional attachment to the novel and it's characters and provides a more classic feel to the story, much more entertaining than the multitude of overly graphic and dumbed down horror literature that often swamps the genre.
Autumn - The City is horror at it's finest and highly recommended to any fan of the genre or indeed any one looking for a novel that places the story, suspense and drama above that of over-the-top gore and teen angst.
Written on 6th February 2012 by Ant.
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