The Aftertime Trilogy by Sophie Littlefield
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Horror, Paranormal (Zombies)
This is a provocative series featuring Cass Dollar, a young woman who is carrying around a lot of emotional baggage and struggling to rebuild her life which had fallen into shambles even before the zombie apocalypse consumed the world. For Cass the only good thing to come out of this mass horror is that she’s finally able to regain custody of her young daughter, Ruthie, until horrifying events separate them again. Later Cass finds herself hundreds of miles away from her daughter, awakening bewildered, physically scarred, and with no idea how she got there. That’s how the first book opens, and it grabbed my attention right from the start and, figuratively speaking, I was glued to the pages until the end.
Aftertime (Aftertime # 1)
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
Awakening in a bleak landscape as scarred as her body, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls surviving something terrible. Having no idea how many weeks have passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: Ruthie has vanished.
And with her, nearly all of civilization.
Where once-lush hills carried cars and commerce, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaters — people turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong.
In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsider, let alone a woman who became a zombie and somehow turned back, but she finds help from an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. Smoke is her savior, and her safety.
For the Beaters are out there.
And the humans grip at survival with their trigger fingers. Especially when they learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared, and desired, of weapons in a brave new world….
Aftertime is my favorite book in the trilogy because it focuses on Cass’s journey to find Ruthie and to be different from the kind of woman she once was not too long ago. She’s such a complex, complicated, and flawed character. Littlefield has done an amazing job in creating a three-dimensional characters, like Cass, that you might meet in real life. Cassie’s not a black and white, good or bad character. In fact, none of the main characters you meet and follow in the series are. Survival becomes the number one motive that drives them. In this first book, though, survival without Ruthie is meaningless to Cassie. She may have failed her daughter in the pre-zombie world, but she’s determined to be a better mother to her daughter, and she must go to great lengths to try to get her daughter out of the clutches of a female religious cult whose beliefs and lifestyle made gave me chill bumps as I read about their influence on the women who are just seeking safety and shelter from the hordes of “Beaters,” infected humans who’ve become cannibalistic creatures who feast upon the flesh and blood of survivors.
Rebirth (Aftertime # 2)
Publication Date: July 19, 2011
Civilization has fallen, leaving California an unforgiving, decimated place. But Cass Dollar beat terrible odds to get her missing daughter back. Yet with the first winter, Ruthie retreats into silence. Flesh-eating Beaters still dominate the land. And Smoke, Cass’s lover and strength, departs on a quest for vengeance that can end only in disaster.
Now the leader of the survivalist community where Cass has planted roots needs Cass’s help. Dor wants to recover his own lost daughter, taken by the Rebuilders. Soon Cass finds herself thrust into the dark heart of an organization promising humanity’s rebirth—at all costs.
Bound to two men blazing divergent paths across a savage land, Cass must overcome the darkness in her wounded heart, or lose those she loves forever.
There are some “romantic” elements in the books and a romantic triangle that develops, but I use the term “romantic” loosely. In this harsh world, love is a dangerous feeling and when the main characters give in to moments of intimacy, it is driven early on by stark loneliness and a way to escape the everyday horrors the survivors must face. Even if you don’t read romance, I think you can still enjoy the book. Love, Loss, Fear, Guilt, Redemption are all thematically-tied emotions that give a realistic depiction of what life is like in this post-apocalyptic world.
Horizon (Aftertime # 3)
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
Of living things there were few, but they carried on.
Cass Dollar is a survivor. She’s overcome the meltdown of civilization, humans turned mindless cannibals and the many evils of man.
But from beneath the devastated California landscape emerges a tendril of hope. A mysterious traveler arrives at New Eden with knowledge of a passageway North—a final escape from the increasingly cunning Beaters. Clutching this dream, Cass and many others follow him into the unknown.
Journeying down valleys and over barren hills, Cass remains torn between two men. One—her beloved Smoke—is not so innocent as he once was. The other keeps a primal hold on her that feels like Fate itself. And beneath it all, Cass must confront the worst of what’s inside her—dark memories from when she was a Beater herself. But she, and all of the other survivors, will fight to the death for the promise of a new horizon….
Each book in the series has some nail-bitingly, cover-your-eyes, intense and gory scenes. The relationships among the major characters are complicated, messy, potentially dangerous, and for some heartbreaking. I find it very interesting to observe how people adapt in the midst of horrific change…and the things they do to resist those change. I believe the main reason I’m drawn to zombie fiction is that it provides a fertile literary landscape for authors and readers to strip away the excesses of our lives, so we can take a hard, brutal look at human nature. It’s sad, but true, that sometimes the zombies aren’t the only real monsters in these books.
Also Included in the Series
I’m not a big fan of novellas, and will usually skip over them in a series unless I must in order to move on to the next full-length installment. I did not read Survivors, and do not believe I missed any essential events that carry the plot forward. However, here’s a bit more about what’s covered in Survivors.
Publication Date: July 5, 2011 /Novella, 29 pgs
DOING RIGHT ISN’T EASY IN A WORLD GONE SO WRONG
Cass Dollar outlasted the fall of civilization. But surviving Aftertime requires the kind of toughness that can conquer the violent landscape of California and still retain its humanity.
When a young boy and his dying grandmother are brought to the Box, the survivalist community where Cass takes shelter, she realizes that without her help he won’t be long for this unforgiving new world. But while the Box is a haven from the roaming marauders—and the flesh-hungry Beaters—it forbids children within its confines. The boy will be turned out to fend for himself. All that stands between him and the brutal wilderness is Cass’s protective instincts, and the stubborn resolve that’s gotten her this far Aftertime.
“Littlefield has a gift…page-turning action and evocative, sensual, harrowing descriptions.”
I highly recommend this series to zombie fans who want more than an action-packed kill-or-be killed zombie plot. Littlefield has written a great, thought-provoking trilogy filled with a main cast of richly complex, memorable characters whose internal conflicts and external battles will stay with me for a long while.
Source: Library Loans
Purchase Links: If you are interested in purchasing any of the books in this featured series, click on the book cover image that will take you to Amazon’s website.
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