First published back in December of 2008, Travis Adkins’s post-apocalyptic zombie novel ‘After Twilight: Walking With The Dead’ formed the sequel to his earlier zombie extravaganza ‘Twilight Of The Dead’ (2004).  Now with a small but relatively dedicated fanbase ready to lap up this quietly-anticipated-sequel, Adkins had the chance to take the ‘Twilight’ novels on to further and hopefully more unexplored grounds.

DLS Synopsis:
The novel begins in Eastpointe where questions are beginning to be asked as to why the Black Beret’s had not yet returned from their mission to collect the supposed anti-virus that the mysterious new arrival, Dr Aaron Dane, was to escort them to.  The facility, now being run exclusively by Odd Fellows members, has been quietly monitoring the airwaves, listening to the different surviving communities that are broadcasting around the country.  The Odd Fellows decide to withhold all of this information from their own community, as well as not even announcing their existence to the other surviving communities across the airwaves.  The only exception they make to this is with Vaughn Winters, who they employ to keep everyone else away from the trading paths of these other communities.

Meanwhile, Leon Wolfe (now fully recovered from the zombie bite thanks to the anti-virus) and Courtney Colvin are still trapped on the roof of a block of apartments, with the undead surrounding the premises at ground level.  Whilst Colvin rests after her tiring ordeal from confronting and killing Dr Dane, Wolfe explores the lower levels of the building.  Upon making an apartment safe from the threat of any wandering zombies, Wolfe brings Colvin down into the relative safety of the apartment to rest up some more.

However, their fellow Black Beret, Vaughn Winters (previously somewhat of a ‘hard rock’ star) has found himself remarkably still alive after suffering some very serious wounds at the hands of Dr Dane and his ‘modified’ zombies.  Winters awakens on top of a cold steel table with his previously slashed throat now crudely held together with industrial strength staples.  Upon leaving the vessel, the Atlantic Princesswith, with only a fireman's axe as protection, Winters emerges on to solid land only to be greeted by hordes of the undead surrounding the apartment block where unbeknown to him  Colvin and Wolfe are held-up inside.

Winters slaughters a huge number of the undead in a frenzy of adrenaline fuelled aggression, until utterly weakened by his efforts, he drags his exhausted body off in the direction of Eastpointe.  Keeping up with the painful pace of Winters, are literally thousands of the undead, each and every one of them craving for his flesh.

When Winters finally arrives at the gates of Eastpointe with an army of zombies in tow, he collapses and is dragged in to the complex by the facilities law enforcement officers Marshal Tyrell Young and his deputy Creyton.  The gates are shut and the alarm disabled as the zombies slowly pile up against Eastpointe’s protective fencing.

Upon waking from their much needed slumber, Wolfe and Colvin are able to finally leave the apartment complex where they thought they would die from the zombie siege, and they make their way back to Eastpointe within one of the two abandoned Humvees.

Upon arriving back at the relative secure sanctuary of Eastpointe, Wolfe finds himself confronted by his one-time comrade Vaughn Winters.  After taking exception to the highly secretive and utterly oppressive Odd Fellows that are currently running the complex, the ex-Black Beret finally loses his mind and begins a murderous rampage in an effort to kill every citizen of Eastpointe.

With the Fourth of July celebrations in full swing, a crazed Black Beret on a mission to kill everyone, and hordes of the undead on the very doorstep of Eastpointe; Tyrell, Creyton, Leon and Courtney are about to be put up against their biggest and most terrifying challenge yet...

DLS Review:
The book begins with a short four page introduction from self-proclaimed bizarro author, Andre Duza.  Duza is already well accustomed to the post-apocalyptic zombie subgenre, having a number of published titles under his own belt within this hugely popular field.  Straight after Duza’s flattering, although slightly surreal introduction, is a new two page map of the Eastpointe grounds.  This gives the reader a quick reference guide as well as an early opportunity to get to grips with the enclosure and the various principal locations within its walls.

The tale itself continues off from exactly where the first novel concluded, with its uber-frustrating cliff hanger.  Luckily for anyone who has left some time between reading the two, Adkins helpfully inserts a number of subtle reminders of where the last novel finished up, so as to assist the reader with recalling the events that preceded the sequel.

However, somewhat bizarrely, the remarkable survival of Vaughn Winters is somewhat hazily glossed over, with no real explanations given.  Was Winters also subjected to the anti-virus (which kept him alive after he was inflicted with such sever and potentially life threatening wounds)?  This question is frustratingly never answered.  But throughout the novel (especially after Winters goes on his maniacal rampage) the reader is constantly questioning what happened to the Black Beret whilst he was unconscious and at the hands of the sadist Dr Aaron Dane.  Alas, Adkins never reveals if there is indeed something more to Winters’ survival and subsequent killing spree - leaving an open maw of frustration left for the reader.

The majority of the novel flows along with very little in the way of a solid storyline seeming to emerge from its pages.  Adkins flutters backwards to the pre-apocalyptic life of Vaughn Winters, where he was an up-and-coming ‘hard rock star’.  This does help to flesh-out the newly acquired role for the character, however the back story does take up a little too much of the novel - stunting the pace from early on.  The inclusion of six of the pages from Winters’ lyric notebook is nothing short of utterly cringe-worthy.  Adkins should certainly steer well clear of injecting such lyrical efforts in future, for want of avoiding similar levels of unforgivable cheese.

Rescuing this ever-so-slightly, and in true zombie-fandom appreciation, Adkins inserts a subtle little homage to all the zombie enthusiasts out there with an almost word for word rendition of the WGON broadcast from Dawn Of The Dead (1978).  A nice touch!

Although the first half of the novel simply runs its course without any real direction becoming apparent, Adkins does still manage to maintain a thoroughly enjoyable read that simply flows with a storytellers ease.

Interestingly, Courtney Colvin takes somewhat of a back seat within this sequel; instead giving the principal character role over equally to both Leon Wolfe and Tyrell Young (as well as the changing role of Vaughn Winters).  Although they still come across as quite clichéd cardboard cut-out characters throughout, Adkins successfully substitutes the need for more realistic characters by instead injecting a thick array of interweaving subplots that seems to replace the need for any real character depth.

Adkins certainly picks up the pace of the novel once Vaughn’s back history has been covered and his subsequent escape from the Atlantic Princess is underway.  From here on, the novel builds up with its heart-racing action, delivering a number of scenes of splattertastic zombie carnage.  The grande finale of the novel is not only monumentally dramatic, but it also sparks off a number of miniature sub-finales, that barrage the reader with an all round epic concluding few chapters.

With ‘After Twilight’, it feels like you have read two novels.  Not due to its length (which is of a reasonable standard length for a novel), but due to the nature and pace of the storyline that is broken into two distinct halves.  The first half is a slower more meandering story, with little to no zombie action and a great amount of monotonous character setting.  The second half is a monstrously-paced action-packed storyline crammed to the rafters with zombie carnage and grin-inducing blood spill.  The veritable literary-tsunami of an ending leaves the reader gasping for air, whilst it sets up the score for the following instalment ‘Twilight of the Dead: Exodus’.

The novel runs for a total of 267 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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