First published back in 2002 as a free online zombie tale, British author David Moody later self-published this first instalment into the ‘Autumn’ zombie series under his Infected Books label in January of 2005. The novel went on to spawn a number of sequels, a low-budget movie adaptation and was the novel that properly kick-started the author’s career in writing.
It was just another normal September morning in the cold months of autumn. However, within the space of just twenty-four hours the world was irreversibly changed. The virus spread across the globe, wiping out over 99% of the world’s population. The few survivors left were suddenly thrust into a horrific new world surrounded by death, disease and decay.
In Northwich, Carl Henshawe, Michael Collins and Emma Mitchell find themselves alone amongst a mass of dead bodies. All around them the streets a filled with those that fell to the virus. Bodies litter the pavements. Buildings suddenly became tombs to the deceased. And all of a sudden they feel more alone than they have ever felt in their lives.
The few survivors of Northwich congregate in the local community centre, finding solace in the small gathering of fellow survivors. They don’t know why they are left alive. They have no idea what’s going on. But what they do know is that outside the walls of the community centre, the world is now a dead one. And then they spot the first corpse moving.
Suddenly, all around their small enclosure the recently dead are reawakening. Ambling around, the resurrected corpses seem directionless; void of any signs of life except that of their movement. But slowly the undead begin to home in on the few survivors holed up in the community centre. And then the first attacks begin.
Carl, Michael and Emma know they need to get away from here. The urban environment is no longer a safe area to be. Breaking away from the other survivors in the community centre, they take to the road in search of a more remote and isolated premises to seek refuge within. Out in the rural countryside they find a small remote farmhouse off the beaten track. Here they will set up their new home. Here they will eke out what remains of a life for themselves. Here they will fortify their home and ultimately make their stand…
Moody’s first instalment into his impressive ‘Autumn’ series certainly sets the bar high for the depth of characterisation and emotional involvement that is to pull the series’ post-apocalyptic storyline along. Indeed, ‘Autumn’ incorporates a very ‘human’ approach towards the premise – homing in on the characters’ emotional reactions and responses towards the incredibly impactful events that are suddenly thrust upon them.
The novel bursts into life within the first few pages, detailing the suddenness of the devastating virus upon the world’s population with a perfectly balanced urgency and shocking speed. One moment all is fine, the next everyone is falling down dead. Moody throws the sudden reality of this heart-stopping situation straight into the reader’s face before anything else has really been established, creating a very unsettling (and impressive) disorientation at the unknown situation.
As the three principal characters begin to reveal themselves more to the reader, Moody brings them together into the community centre, portraying a very realistic need for grouping together in such a desperate time of crisis. Here the flaring tempers and conflicting personalities enrich the strength of the novel’s focus on its characters. However, the centre soon becomes a claustrophobic and oppressive environment, more so than any place of salvation.
When the dead begin to awaken and their first movements are noticed by the survivors, Moody successfully sets down a chilling atmosphere of growing uncertainty (and gut-churning tension) at what is beginning to transpire. Once again, the reaction from the survivors at such an eerie sight is very well thought through, portraying an incredible realism to their individual reactions.
Once the walking dead begin to show the first signs of aggressive behaviour towards the survivors, Moody purposefully cranks up the novel’s previously cautious pace, pushing the novel into a more progressive and engaging stride. Although the novel never really races along (although the ending is quite heart-stopping in its desperation), Moody does maintain a solid pace that keeps the reader engaged and enwrapped in the developing storyline.
When the characters have found their new home within the rural cottage in the middle of nowhere, Moody purposefully knocks the pace down a gear, and instead turns the tale to one of fortifying their new home with a very ‘Survivors’ (1976) style of building upon a self-sufficient way of life in mind.
Once again, Moody puts a wealth of thought into the protective measures that the small group go to and their subsequent emotional mood changes. The human reactions towards their new security are once again exposed and examined from a very personal level. And now that the reader has built up strong emotional bonds with the characters, Moody plays with this emotional attachment to set the novel spiralling to an impactful and heart-racing finale.
All in all this first instalment into the ‘Autumn’ zombie series is an absolutely stunning achievement of post-apocalyptic fiction. Like with the author’s earlier tale ‘Straight To You’ (1996), the characterisation is the predominant force behind the tale, with the emotional turmoil, heartache and developing relationships in the face of such a monumentally traumatic situation what ultimately propels the novel forwards.
The novel is powerful and impactful on a very human level. It exposes our weaknesses, fears and portrays a very human response to the desperate situation. And when the last word on the last page of the novel has been read, it’s nigh on impossible not to want to jump straight on board with the next instalment in the series – ‘Autumn: The City’ (2003).
The novel runs for a total of 283 pages.
© DLS Reviews