I tend to waffle on zombie books. I can get burned out on them real fast because they are just so popular; they seem to be the go-to epidemic for apocalyptic books, that or hunger game levels of dystopian. But “The Afters” was an awesome read, and all because of the narrative voice of Charlie, our main character. O’Connell had me laughing within the first chapter of introducing us to Charlie, and in a genre where most everything has been done 80 different ways, but often the same way (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead), it was so refreshing to have such a strong character. Because that’s what you need at this stage when almost everything else has been done before: a unique, strong voiced character that you are invested in, but is also incredibly sarcastic and funny in an otherwise super dire situation. Charlie lives in a very loose community of survivors, he’s an awesome scavenger and hunter of the undead, but he also is a good guy, a softie, a romantic, and his attachment to Bertha, Trey, and Ellie was both sweet and entertaining to follow.
Here’s the thing with survival zombie books: 90% of the time, they get a lot wrong—again, I’m looking at you, Walking Dead. But O’Connell got so many of the small, subtle details right that the weird survivalist in me was tickled with glee. Things like gasoline. Sure, you can scavenge it and that’s great—for a little while. But gas has a shelf life. It “goes bad” essentially, and after a while, it doesn’t matter if you find a million abandoned cars, the gas will be unusable. Charlie knows this, he makes a joke about it, and it’s wonderful. Same goes for a lot of the weapons that Charlie and Kalila use, how they get power, clear rooms of zombies… They handle the situations and use the weapons correctly, and then make jokes about it. It’s slightly self-aware of the tropes zombie books face and I loved that it was brought into the story in such a clever and entertaining way!
O’Connell’s zombie world is different than others I’ve read in the genre as well. Sure, there are still the bad humans who use the apocalypse to let their inner psycho run supreme, but there are different kinds of zombies, which you meet mostly at the end so I won’t say more. There are also different levels of people who are immune, or infected, and what that does to them, especially for people like Ellie. It kind of reminded me of "Girl with All the Gifts" in that regard. It’s very well done and I enjoyed the uniqueness it brought to the world, even if it got a little more on the paranormal, super power side then I was expecting. While it was unique, it did feel a little out of place or just kind of tacked on at times, and brought up a lot of questions that don’t really get answered right away, but that’s what book 2 is for hopefully!
Honestly, that’s my only complaint about the book: the lingering questions I have about the powers, what makes the new kind of zombie versus the normal ones we see most of the time, and the fact that Kalila didn’t seem to have much of a purpose. I mean, she does, but her voice was so overshadowed by the witticisms of Charlie, that having her POV felt a bit unnecessary, though I did love seeing such a badass lady hold her own in such a world. But, be warned—though the warning should be self-evident—this book is pretty mature in both language and gore. So if you have issues with swearing or lots of violence, then, well, sorry. But, again, it’s a book about killing zombies and getting revenge so those elements all fit well with the story and world as a whole.
I am still so impressed and happy with this book. The novel is just over 200 pages long, which is still short, but it felt much shorter and I just flew through the story. I want more! I need book 2! I already miss Charlie and I want to know what happens to him and his friends next! Given my trepidation on zombie books, I wasn’t expecting to love this story as much as I did, but it’s written so well with such a fun main character that this book gets all 5 stars, I can’t wait to read more! And thanks to the author for providing a copy for an honest review.
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