Autumn: The City. David Moody Hardcover
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Cooper is a member of the military who has spent weeks in a secret base, hidden from the goings-on of the outside world. When he is ordered to emerge from the base to obtain a status report along with several others, what he finds is more appalling than anyone from that tucked away sanctuary had surmised. When Cooper's military reconnaissance troop leaves him behind, he eventually meets up with the group living within the college dormitories and they all quickly turn to him for some semblance of hope.
However, Emma and Michael, from the previous novel, also make an appearance. Since leaving the farmhouse, the two have been on the run in a motor home, seeking safety. When they come across the military vehicles entering and exiting the nearby hidden base, they decide to find a way into the shelter. It should be noted that these two do not show up until almost halfway through the novel.
Though still just as intriguing as the previous novel, I found many parts to be rather slow. In addition, it was both interesting and tedious to read about the whole ordeal all over again. I found reading about the death and disease from different viewpoints to be a fascinating way to begin the novel. Yet, it also seemed rather redundant in many respects for those who have read the previous novel to have to re-hash the previous occurrences. That does, however, enable people who have not read the novels predecessor to pick up this book without having missed much at all. Furthermore, Moody's zombies don't seem to have evolved much more in this book than they had in the previous one. Throughout the first novel, the risen dead are in constant flux, becoming more and more attuned to their surroundings and evolving ever-so-slightly with each passing day. In Autumn: The City, there seems to be little progression in this respect. Autumn: The City doesn't take the opportunity to build very much off of the foundation laid by it's predecessor.
It should also be noted that this is not a series in which you will find lots of action and gore. The scares and drama found herein are much more subtle. However, that is not to say that these books are any less worthy of a read. They are simply geared less towards the in-your-face splatter horror audience.
Though I didn't find this novel as enthralling as the first, I will still go on to read Autumn: Purification. Despite some minor qualms, I still highly recommend this series to anyone who is a fan of zombie fiction.
David Moody's Autumn Quartet continues on with The City, a book that starts out concurrently to Autumn. Don't expect to see your dysfunctional heroes from that book for a while, unfortunately; you've got a new crop of characters to think about here.
This is an ensemble piece, more than the last book was; there can't be said to be any real main character. There's a ragtag band of survivors who start off apart, mostly, but come together piece by piece. There's also a military installation who sally forth now and again to try and assess the situation, two of whose members get left behind during one mission. And, eventually, a few folks from the first novel show up, so we come full circle.
The book suffers a bit from middle-novel syndrome (Autumn was, remember, originally envisioned as a trilogy); we have new characters, but the basic situation is the same, and this isn't helped by the fact that we know what's in store for the first half or so of this book, having read the first novel. It picks up once the timeline merges with the end of the first book, and the ending was the strongest section of the book (it got me to pick up Purification immediately to find out what was coming next). So the series flags a bit, but a slow start leads to a strong finish. Don't give up halfway through. ***
The City introduces us to some new characters since the first book, which is cool as you get to experience the zombie rising all over gain from completely different perspectives. Thankfully, our heroes from the fist book reappear, even if as a subplot.
What's good about City is the descriptive outlook of the city and the surrounding areas. Reading various people's reactions is interesting and things move at a solid pace.
What's not as good is that Moody loves to bog down the story in generic reactions (How many times can a character react the same, angry way to the situation?) and the story grinds to a halt at times as we wait for the characters who will fight to weed through all the whining and complaining of those who won't. Certainly its necessary to show all the reactions, but we got the point the first 7 times someone said "What's the point?"
If you enjoyed the first book, you're probably going to go for this one as well. And if you go that far, you'll want to find out what happens in Purification (a decent, if not thrilling, conclusion).
Autumn: The City starts in much the same way as the first book, Autumn, although a short prologue shows that at least some people knew that it was coming as an army unit is ordered to move to a secure bunker, just making it inside in time. From there we follow a handful of people as others around them die suddenly and the world changes in an instant, with very few surviving the event. We see these individuals dealing with life in the aftermath, trying to survive and seek out other survivors, and finally grouping together at the local university. But the cadavers have changed and are no longer simply stumbling around, the new aggression they show can mean nothing good for the survivors. And then there is the army, coming out from its bunker to see what state the world is in, and finding it worse than even they imagined.
Unlike the first novel Moody doesn't take his time in exploring the death event and the immediate aftermath, from mass death to the re-animation of the corpses, in too great detail, but instead does all of this in a smoother and quicker fashion. We still get a good look at how these people are trying to cope and survive, but it isn't a day-by-day thing, more of a general look at their lives over a longer period - it works much better as it doesn't bog the story down in mundane and boring events. This has a knock-on effect to the story as Moody has covered the time period of the first novel by the time we reach the half-way point, and then we get into new and more interesting territory, seeing how the behaviour of the dead changes as more time passes. It also allows him to follow up on the fates of Michael and Emma from the first book who make a welcome return to the story, keeping that story thread going.
Other than these two returning characters there are quite a few more to follow. With a few dozen holed up at the university Moody is able to select those that we follow, and each brings something different to the story. Moody uses the characters to great effect in Autumn: The City, telling the story through their eyes and their reactions as things start to changed. It works well, but I didn't find that any particular character stood out for me, rather they all had interesting stories and acted in a way I would expect. I was slightly annoyed by the two young men who wanted to find a pub/club and have one final night on the town, but when the end of the world comes I'm sure there will be people like that about.
Story-wise there really isn't too much I could tell you that you won't have seen from lots of zombie movies that are out there, but Moody has a talent for making you feel part of events. The descriptions he uses can be chilling and eerie, completely vivid and all too real. The novel does end rather abruptly, and it's one of the main issues I had with it. Autumn was fairly self-contained, but this sequel is clearly written as part of a larger story, one I'm very much looking forward to reading.
Autumn: The City is a step up from the first book and a novel I very much enjoyed. While many zombie stories tend to follow a similar path David Moody has shown that just because the idea is old it doesn't mean it can't be re-told, and in this case with great success!
Moody has us follow the patch of several groups of survivors in modern-day England after the outbreak of a terrifyingly fast virus that killed billions of people in seconds, without anybody knowing its origin or its purpose. The group of "countryside" survivors that we got to know in Autumn is featured in this sequel again. It gets back to the City it originally fled from and gets to merge with another group of survivors that got trapped in a university somewhere in the City -hence the book's name.
Moody is keeps delivering a number of messages to the reader in his book, just as he did in the first, and will be doing in the third (Autumn, Purification).
First, the countryside is no ideal place to hide and enhance the chances of survival when faced with a mutating enemy that relies primarily on sound detection, and gets increasingly "articulated". Out there in the open, while silence may be soothing, it may also become the deadliest betrayer too as any sound will act as magnet to those stench-generating masses.
Second, the Army is shown in its full "splendor", ie a mixture of immature conditioning in the face of unplanned threats, and power -when used and organized to take benefit of its very conditioning. Unlike in many other zombie books, the army is not depicted as a "yet-another-enemy-from-within" party. It features good as well as hopeless guys too, just like in the outside. The survivors get to benefit from the army without giving them anything in return, as we would have anticipated normally.
Third, the most intellectually "enlightened" characters of the bunch have no clue about what's happened to the world. Reciprocally, the army's might is barely sufficient to inflict any kind of substantial damage to their "total enemy", the rotting crowd. In other words, neither sheer intelligence nor brute force is a real asset in ensuring self-preservation. What we see clearly in Moody's depiction is the intrinsic value of constant adaptation. Those who can't adapt, don't make it alive.
Pretty good messages I thought. Sounds good to you too? Then read on.
Another finesse of Moody's work is the way the sick bodies evolve. In the first book, they were dumb, inarticulated, helpless, but moving towards the end to the beginning of a rational thought process translating into coordinated actions (banging on the walls, moving to a specific location. Aggressiveness was also starting to show.
In Autumn, the City, aggressiveness becomes the driving factor behind the rotten crowd's actions, making it each day more dangerous and difficult for the survivors to stay alive. This adds another, very effective layer of anxiousness, as the survivors cave in in makeshift shelters for extended periods of times without necessarily being aware of the extent of the dead bodies' mutation outside. That makes for interesting encounters when they finally all meet together again.
But still, the author still has not used the name "Zombie" a single time in this second book, making the pathetic living-deads not so evil after all. And we still don't know what caused this mayhem in the first place, will we ever find out? People we get attached too just die of stupid death (car accidents etc.), so who's going to be the next one? Also, what the hell are the living-deads doing when they get onto living survivors? Do they eat them? Do they just kill them as the result of hate, jealousy, something else? Will we, here again, know at all in the end? All of these very effective narrative and plot techniques are very good at keeping the reader glued to the book, wishing for the end (of the book!) not to come too fast.