AUTHOR: Sophie Littlefield
RATING: 4 Stars
RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2011
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Aftertime, Sophie Littlefield’s latest foray into post-apocalyptic fiction is a moving piece that defies a specific genre fiction label. Is it post-apocalyptic? Is it dystopian? Is it romance? Is it sci-fi? It is essentially all of these elements and more, a stark and yet moving journey about a single mother who survives a catastrophic apocalypse only to lose her daughter. As a survivor to the eventual plagues and bioterrorism that follow the decline of the United States, Cassandra Dollar finds herself with little memory of an attack that leaves her stranded and vulnerable in the California wilderness.
At the forefront of Aftertime is the immeasurable strength and internal will that Cass demonstrates as she picks herself up and with a single-minded purpose seeks out those who can help her locate her daughter Ruthie. But within her core is a perpetual internal conflict-her past, present and future inevitably warring against one another, threatening to unravel her mission. These internal struggles characterize Cass deeply for readers, telegraph her acute pain, self-loathing, and the promise of redemption.
Somehow, someway, Cass must align herself with someone who can help her.
But friends from Before are easily enemies, and even those with whom she struggled with directly after the cataclysm-their loyalties have become divided. And on the horizon, two factions are moving into place to seize power: the Rebuilders whose totalitarian rule will shape the face of the future of civilization and the Resistance who will fight to the death to prevent them from coming into power.
Enter Smoke, a widely respected but reluctant leader. From a shadowy past, and an even shadowy present Smoke has earned the respect many survivors and the contempt of the Rebuilders. If they ever get their hands on him, it will be trial without a jury….and an almost certain death sentence. Littlefield has managed to cloak Smoke’s motivations very carefully, we never see the clear path to why he gravitates towards Cass, why he is risking his neck for her, and where his power base lies.
Together Smoke and Cass journey from relative safety into the wilds of scattered outposts, Rebuilder enclaves, under the constant threat of Beaters. As they venture, Cass keeps some of the truth of her attack under wraps, and Smoke hides his past incursions against the Rebuilders. These secrets will end up haunting them, and perhaps will hurt them in the end. But a reckoning will be had sooner or later.
Aftertime was a stirring read that sincerely whetted my appetite for the next in the series mainly due to Littlefields’ skillful weaving of details and hints here and there that punctuated the story and kept the pace taut, and the story memorable. At the end, I hungered for answers to an abundance of questions. What exactly is Smoke’s background with the Resistance? And how long will it be before others recognize the salvation to the plague just might lie in Cass and Ruthie’s blood? What of Dor? What will happen when Smoke actually organizes officially…how will the factions play out their conflicts? Who will be caught in the middle as civilization struggles to reassert the path that was meant to be. Promise is heavy in the air with Aftertime, and all of these drool-worthy questions set the stage for the next installment.
I wait with bated breath.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat)