In Aftertime, the world has undergone tremendous biological warfare, which has severely damaged food supplies, particularly livestock. A genetically designed plant called Kaysev has been introduced as an alternative food source but a mutation known as Blueleaf causes further grief. At first, people are eating Blueleaf for a new high, but the side effects prove deadly. If someone digests the pant, they either die from fever, or become a Beater.
The Beaters -- the infected of Aftertime -- are definitely NOT zombies. They are somewhat like the infected of 28 Days Later (and even that is a stretch), and the Beater strain caused by Blueleaf can be passed on through bites. Beaters retain some minor forms of speech, memory and the capacity to think to a small degree. While most victims of Blueleaf remain in the damaged form of a Beater, continuing to attack healthy people, a few victims recover from the illness.
Cass Dollar, the character providing the POV, is one of the lucky few to survive becoming a beater, but a large chunk of her memory is missing, and she is on a mission to find her young daughter, Ruthie. The last time she saw her daughter was when she was carried off by Beaters.
This book was marketed as a horror novel...and there was barely enough action to qualify it as a thriller. The author, Sophie Littlefield, writes paragraph after paragraph of scenery descriptions; the first eleven pages were mostly landscape descriptions of what Cass was seeing, and I had to read 1/4 into the book before it was even remotely interesting. I had to read 300+ pages before the book finally resembled a horror story...Littlefield put more detail into her sex scenes than the action scenes with Beaters and survivors (which were limited interactions). The ending left me wondering if there is to be a sequel, but even so, the story finished too abruptly in any case.
I was tempted to give Aftertime just two stars because it was one of the worst "horror" novels I have ever read, but Littlefield did write well...just not well enough for the horror genre. The story was very chronological, but it may have benefited from including more flashbacks. I also think it would have been much better if other POVs were included; Cass came across as an underdeveloped character, and it really hurt the story. The only strength of Aftertime was the dialogue, and even then it was, at times, like trying to roll a turd downhill: sticking in places, instead of rolling smoothly. The last few chapters of the book were so much better than the rest, it was almost as if another person wrote them, but it wasn't enough to justify reading this book.
If Littlefield does decide to write a sequel, I think she would do much better if she stuck to the style she used in the last 50+ pages: lots of dialogue, great action sequences, and some well-developed characters. (For example, Monica was only in the story briefly, but she made more of an impression than Cass ever did.) But, I hope she doesn't expect readers to slog through chapter after chapter of descriptions. If Littlefield could focus more on the interaction of characters, she might do much better with her next attempt at horror.