Two days in a row that we have Chris Connors reviews! He is a very fast reader. This one is called The Afters by Christopher O’Connell and it is the first book to a series.
Synopsis: It’s the end of the world as we know it and Charles Gilbert Billingsworth the VIII feels just fine. Not only is he surviving the zombie apocalypse, but he’s also enjoying it too. But Charlie’s idyllic life as a daydreaming zombie killer takes a turn when he finds two lost children. One of whom is hiding an amazing, powerful secret. Meanwhile, Kalila Trout is on a quest for revenge. The only survivor of an attack by the warlord known as King George, Kalila’s vengeance is only stopped by his distinct advantage in numbers. When King George kidnaps one of Charlie’s children, Kalila finds an unlikely ally to help her get the closure she needs. But even if Kalila and Charlie manage to make it out alive, a new race of zombie might ruin everything they are fighting for.
What a good read! A real page-turner, if such a cliché can still be used for e-books. Christopher O’Connell’s writing reminded me of Chuck Wendig’s writings as found in his post-apocalyptic book series, Double Dead. He channels some of the best of Wendig’s qualities in his writing; O’Connell has a knack of rounding out his characters in your imagination without the need for long descriptive paragraphs that interrupt the story; the pace of the action is enough to keep you hooked, but not so repetitive that is like an interminable Hollywood car chase; and the dialogue/internal monologues are tinged with dark humor and witty wordplay without taking away from the realism of post-apocalyptic life.
Charles/Charlie/Chuck is a tough, resourceful, smart and likable character, who finds himself better suited for life in the apocalypse. As an aside, I wondered if Chuck’s name was a homage to Chuck Wendig himself given the similar styles?
Connell also handles backstory flashbacks deftly, inserting them into the main narrative at points that feel like natural breaks in rhythm, while still maintaining the tension of the plot.
Given how well-plumbed the zombie apocalypse genre is it is hard for writers to breathe new life into some of the tired old tropes. No matter what an author writes there will be someone who has already at least partly covered it. Chuck’s rules for staying alive reminded me a bit of Columbus’s rules in the movie Zombieland (2009). Some zombies are capable of intelligent thought and organization (I Am Legend movie remake); however, like any good author, he finds the small things that make the world his. E.g. his zombies aren’t dead or undead—they’re alive, feel pain, and can die from regular wounds. Such a small difference, but it seems to alter the novel in a way that is his.
The story eventually leads to a big showdown, which had me e-flipping through the pages fast as I could read. There is then a secondary climax after the resolution of the first. I thought perhaps some of this could have been written into a second book rather than trying to cram it into the last 15% of this book. However, I learned that this is just Book 1 so this exciting development from the second showdown will continue on with Book 2.
If this first book of his is typical of what he can do I’m hoping he’ll make a bigger name for himself like the way other writers (e.g., John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire under her Mira Grant name, and the aforementioned Wendig). A hearty 5/5 stars for this book and I hope to see much more writing from Christopher O’Connell.
Book Rating: 5/5
Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.
There is a new book on the block that I am promoting. This one is called Justice Gone by Nick Lombardi. Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans. You can get it here: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1785358766/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_ca-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641