First published back in April of 2005, British horror author David Moody’s book ‘Autumn – The Human Condition’ was the fourth book to be published in his post-apocalyptic zombie saga.  The book was written as a companion book that explores various characters’ sub-plots during the time of the ‘Autumn’ novels. The book originally evolved from the ‘Autumn: Echoes’ series that had been available as a free download from the author’s website.  Since its publication under the ‘Autumn – The Human Condition’ title, the book was reworked, expanded upon and re-released in July of 2013.

This review is predominately of the expanded and reissued version.

DLS Synopsis:
Jake Wilson was a regional manager for a global finance house.  A job that had seen him and his family emigrating to Canada.  But he still kept in touch with his parents with those once a week phone calls.  But in the early hours of that fateful autumn morning, the phone call with his mother would prove to be his last.  Mrs Wilson had seen the first signs of something very strange hitting the news.  The reports were showing that it had started out in Vancouver.  And it was spreading outwards fast.

Amy Steadman was a twenty-four-year-old manager in a lingerie department.  And today she had a meeting with the senior managers.  But with the shop just opening up, and an elderly customer already pestering her, the day had already started off on a bad foot.  And it was about to get a whole lot worse for Amy Steadman.  A plague was about to hit the world which would kill her and the vast majority of the world’s population.  But in three days time, some basic motor functions would return to Amy Steadman’s decomposing body.  And as the flesh on her body continues to decay, Amy Steadman begins to move – getting up and walking once again.

Jim Harper couldn’t believe he’d messed up this badly.  Whilst on a business trip away from home, he’d ended up in bed with Helen Hunter – his boss’s daughter.  And now, waking up in her hotel bed, guilt flooded over him.  How could he have risked his entire family life on one night with Helen Hunter.  One night of lust-fuelled passion.  How on earth was he going to get away with this?

Sheri Newton hated working the graveyard shift.  As a CCTV operator, nothing of interest ever happened during those early hours of the morning.  But as she watched the screens showing images from the seventeen CCTV cameras, her shift was about to get a whole lot more intense.

Sonya Farley was heavily pregnant and now she was stuck in a traffic jam.  She’d joked to her husband about giving birth on the hard shoulder, but now it was looking like that could actually happen.  That is, until the cars started careening into each other all around her.  Something very strange was happening.

Harry Stayt was an outbound activities instructor who loved his job.  And so, when he went into that quiet season that happened each year, he used his annual leave to get away from the rat race of the city and go running out in the fresh air of the countryside.  And that was exactly what he had been doing when he came across the car wreckage.  The two passengers inside clearly already dead.  Harry’s first glimpses of the global catastrophe that had torn apart the world.

Jacob Flynn was in prison for manslaughter.  A crime he maintains he was unjustly found guilty of.  And so here he was, lying in the lower bunk, locked away with his two cellmates.  But he could hear something going on outside of their cell.  Some sort of commotion.  And then everyone started dying.  And suddenly he was trapped in a cell with two dead bodies and no sign of anyone to let him out.  But then, after three days, Bewsey started to move again.  And all around the prison Flynn could hear the other dead bodies banging around.  Dead bodies including those of the prison guards who of course held the keys for all of the cells.

Brigid Culthorpe was a police officer who could certainly hold her own when faced with trouble.  And there was no doubt that that was what they were about to come up against as her and PC Marco Glover arrived at the house of Shaun Jenkins along Acacia Road.  A call reporting a suspected domestic incident.  The usual for that particular area.  But it was to prove far from the usual call out.

Peter Guest couldn’t believe that he was about to miss another event in his son’s life.  But there was no way he could attend Joe’s assembly.  He had an important deal to close in the meeting that morning.  And so he found himself stuck in a traffic jam first thing in the morning whilst his wife was at school watching his son’s assembly.  He really should have been there for them.  He really should have been with his family.

Webb wasn’t happy with how things were going.  He didn’t want to be involved with whatever was going down.  But here he was, in a car with Crawford, not having  much choice in the matter.  And then the blue lights of a police car appear behind them.  With their vehicle not being what you would call legit, Crawford steps on the accelerator and the chase is on.  But it’s a chase that would always end in disaster.

Jackie Soames was the landlord at the Lion and Lamb pub.  A job that ruled her life.  But on that Tuesday morning early in September, Jackie had overslept.  Why had George not woken her?  But Jackie would be regretting cursing her husband when she discovers the real reason why he hadn’t woken her.

Gary Keele loved his job.  Every day he was up in the sky, towing gliders in his plane for the Clifton Gliding Centre.  But once the first corporate party for the day arrived for their team building exercise, Gary’s day was about to take a sudden nosedive for the worse.

Caron had been hiding away from the truth of the matter.  Deep down she knew what her husband, Bob, had been up to.  He wasn’t exactly subtle about his affairs.  Everyone knew.  However it would take the pressure of her seventeen-year-old son, Matthew, to make her finally act on her husband’s blatant infidelity.  But her decision to act had come just that bit too late.

Juliet Appleby was a thirty-nine-year-old nursery school teacher who hadn’t exactly flourished in life.  Living with her parents, still a virgin, and with no real independence – Juliet felt she’d missed out on a lot of what life had to offer.  But when she finds the dead body of one of her young pupils outside her classroom, she begins to experience the exhilarating feeling of a freedom she’d never known before.

Karen Chase was fed up with rude and patronising customers.  As a waitress at the Monkton View Eater, she’d had her fair share of obnoxious customers, but this morning’s disgruntled customer was possibly the worst.  Okay so his breakfast wasn’t exactly like the one in the menu’s photo, but that was no excuse for being so rude.  Luckily, the man was about to have his comeuppance.  Unfortunately, so was everyone else.

Philip Evans’ mother had suffered with her health for years.  Being a good son, Philip had chosen to spend all his time with her.  A fulltime job ever since she had been bed-ridden.  But on that Tuesday morning something awful started to happen to her.  It was worse than one of her usual attacks.  Much worse.  And then three days later his mother started moving again.  It was one of the happiest days of his life.  Although he had to tie her down with washing line - as much to protect her as anything else.  But he was sure she was finally on the mend.

Lorna had watched it all unfold from her bedroom window.  But now she needed to go out and get some supplies.  Which is when she heard the screaming which brought her to Anita.  The screaming was coming from a young woman named Ellie who had lost her baby to the plague.  And now Anita was going crazy listening to the manically depressed woman.  Lorna now had to choose what she wanted to do.   She probably should stay with these two fellow survivors.  But not here in this grubby flat.    Her house was much more suitable to sit this thing out in.

Kieran Cope had only just been discussing with his work colleagues about what they would do if the end of the world came about.  How would he cope?  What would they do?  But when it actually happened, Kieran barely even noticed.  He had gotten to work early, and was a little perplexed when no one else arrived.  And it was only when he found his friend, Drew, lying dead in the factory canteen that he began to realise the magnitude of what had happened.

Harte, Hollis and Jas had been driving around looking for food and drink and hopefully somewhere to hole-up since the dead bodies started to walk.  Still recovering from the hangovers of the first night that they found each other in the pub, the three had decided upon a small supermarket.  A small rest bite in a decaying world.  Somewhere that had also been chosen by another scared survivor – Gordon.

Councillor Ray Cox wasn’t really much of a people person.  In fact, since being a councillor for Taychester Borough Council, he’d hardly done anything for his people.  But he’d paid attention when they spoke about the Emergency Planning Committee (EPC).  And he knew exactly where the underground bunker was located.  A fortunate nugget of information that he found himself desperately falling back on when the shit started to hit the fan around him.

Penelope Street and her husband Arthur had been out buying a new sofa when 99% of the world’s population was cut down by the plague.  And when Arthur succumbed to the infection, Penelope was left in her own personal hell.  Paralysed from the neck down, Penelope Street was in a hell of a predicament.  Without anyone to help her, she would die from dehydration within days.  And she just wanted it over.

Emily watched from the relative safety of her online virtual world, as everything and everyone suddenly stopped dead.  With the real world outside of her nan’s house succumbing to the plague, Emily hid away within the cyber existence that she had enveloped her life within.  But her gaming platforms and social networks were now empty and desolate cyber spaces.  No one was around.  No one but her remained connected.  That is, until the Texas boy suddenly showed up.  But it was never going to last.

Jackson was heading for the coast.  Since this thing first hit, he had been doing alright.  He was a natural born survivor, and as such, he had already formulated a plan of action.  It was all a matter of thinking things through.  Observing the situation at hand and working with what you’ve got.  And so he knew he’d be okay.  In fact, in some way he was actually enjoying the turn of events.

Simon Walters was a forty-seven-year-old bank clerk who’d never really progressed very far in life.  He already had his own issues, and so when the plague hit, he didn’t cope very well with it all.  In fact, his mind blocked out the end of the world, and instead he just carried on with life as normal, oblivious to everything happening around him.  And so each morning he would kiss his dead wife goodbye as he went off to work, open up his till at the bank, and try to deal with what he saw as unruly customers.  Customers that were in fact rotting corpses.

Barry Bushell had decided to start wearing women’s clothing.  He didn’t understand it himself, but for some reason it was helping him cope with the situation, so why the hell not?  And he was doing okay.  He’d barricaded himself into the Presidential Suite on the top floor of a five star city centre hotel.  And from there he just waited; with lights shining out of the windows hoping to attract any fellow survivors.  And that’s how he would eventually meet with Nick Wilcox and his coach of survivors.

Lester Prescott had been an accountant.  But now none of that mattered.  After burying his wife and daughter in their backgarden, as per the government’s directions within the anti-terror leaflet he had previously filed away, Lester found himself alone in a cold and silent world.  However, after meticulously rationing out his food and supplies, Lester finds himself not as alone as he thought.  With the recently deceased rising everywhere, Lester realises that if he wants to stay in the house he’d worked so hard for, he’ll need to secure up the premises from the gathering dead.  But what he needs to realise is what it is he truly wants to protect.

Kate James was getting increasingly hungry.  Ever since Michael, Carl and Emma had left the community centre, the overall morale in the remaining group had dwindled.  Now, with their food completely gone, four of them had gone out to bring back supplies.  However what they would bring back with them was more than mere sustenance.  Following them back, through the empty streets of Norwich, would be hordes and hordes of the dead.

Eddie missed Cassie.  Okay, so he had accepted that their relationship together was over, that she’d gone off with his friend Martin, and that she was happier with Martin than she’d ever been with him.  But he still found himself thinking about her.  Wishing they were still together.  Especially now that everyone was dead.  But he had to know what had happened to her.  He had to know if she had died like the rest of them.  He had to go to the house she shared with Martin for some final closure.

Robert Woolgrave was handling this whole situation with some degree of forethought.  When the dead started rising he moved into his office within the second-hand car lot where he worked and set about fortifying it.  But as the days passed by, and his solitary existence within the small office space remained the same, he began to realise perhaps he hadn’t made the right choices after all.

Michael Collins and Emma Mitchell had no idea what to do or where to go.  Following their flight from Penn Farm when it became overrun with dead flesh, they had driven around until finally parking up in the middle of nowhere.  Now they had some decisions to make.  They needed to find somewhere to go.  They needed a plan.  And most of all, they needed to readjust to life outside of the safety they previously had in Penn Farm.

Maxwell had been a ‘prepper’.  Someone who had spent much of their life preparing for the end of the world.  And now that the apocalypse had actually happened, he was feeling pretty happy about everything.  He’d never been much of a people person.  But if they could see him now, it’s him who would be having the last laugh.  But when an animal gets at some of his supplies which he had stored outside, he’s forced to venture outside the security of his home – out into the real world.

Kilgore sat alone in the corner of the military underground bunker’s mess hall.  It had not been long since he went aboveground for the first time since the world ended, and he was still recovering from the trauma of it all.  But when a fellow solider named Spence came over to sit with him, he finds he can finally open up about the horrors he witnessed whilst searching for survivors in the small town of Ansall.  And when he opens up, a vision of the nightmare world that they are now living in comes pouring out.

Steninger knew he needed to get home.  When the whole world went to pot and he was left alone, not knowing if anyone else had survived the plague, his first thoughts were of Georgie and he knew he had to get back to her.  However he was more than eighty miles from Georgie and their home.  But he knew he had to do it.  And so he began the arduous journey back home; staying in the shadows and killing the walking dead when he had to.  It would be a long and difficult journey – but it would be worth it.

Scott Weaver had always preferred his street name - Skin.  Like many other sixteen-year-olds, he liked the tough individuality that it suggested.  And when the apocalypse hit, that tough exterior he so prided himself on swallowed him up.  With everyone dead around him, Skin took to the school that had caused him so much misery, and began to really enjoy himself.  But the drinking, smoking and random corpse killing that filled his days began to get tiresome.  And he had a fire inside him that was beginning to emerge.  He wanted revenge.

Annie Nelson was eighty-four.  It was a good age in itself.  She’d seen a lot in her lifetime.  Experienced a lot.  And had a mind of how things could go.  And so when the community centre became overrun with the dead, she just waited it out quietly in a corner.  Waited for the dead to eventually disperse.  And then she simply upped and left.  That was three weeks ago.  Since then she’d been just waiting it out in her own quiet way in the cellar at her home.  But she was getting more and more tired as the days went by.

The apocalypse had made him into something he despised.  He’d become a ruthless brutal killer of the dead.  He’d been forced into it by his predicament.  His duty.  His obligation to continue until the end.  And so here he was again, preparing for another desperate run across the streets that were infested with the dead.  Blades in his hands, he had to make it.  Because in his heart he knew there was much more than just his own life at stake.

John Carlton had been a twenty-four-year-old army mechanic when the end of the world hit.  Now he was little more than another desperate prisoner in the tomb that was the underground military bunker.  But ever since the battle took place sixty-five-days-ago, all order and control had collapsed.  Now everyone within the bunker was out for themselves.  With the food supplies almost non-existent, Carlton had hidden away in a narrow service tunnel and waited as the desperation turned to violent madness.  That was two weeks ago.  Since then he hadn’t moved, but he could hear that things had gotten a whole lot worse.  Perhaps it was finally time to leave his hideout and re-enter the bunker’s subterranean tunnels.

Joe Huxtable would say at school that his dad just stays at home but his mum is a brilliant scientist who’s going to save the world.  However none of his classmates believed him.  It was hard to believe that his mother, Dr Gillian Huxtable, worked on a top secret military project that was set to turn the tide on military warfare. But she had another agenda in her work.  Alongside the research for the military she was working on a far more humanitarian angle.  But when the military pull their funding, and the Huxtable family are left with almost nothing, some tough decisions have to be made.  And then when the Airborne Defence Program is suddenly initiated far earlier than it should have been, they are forced to face some even tougher ultimatums.

Jack Baxter has finally come to the decision to take a flight back to the mainland and leave Cormansey behind for good.  After the birth of Michael and Emma’s baby daughter, Maggie, and having seen a glimmer of hope for a longer duration of existence, he’s finally decided to pack up and enjoy the rest of his own existence.  And so, together with Donna and Clare, they take a last flight over to the mainland that has remained untouched for over a year.  A land that is now finally theirs again for the taking.

DLS Review:
‘Autumn: The Human Condition’ really sums up David Moody’s approach to his post-apocalyptic zombie series.  It’s not all about the undead.  It’s not about the horror and the gore.  Instead, at its very heart is that all important human element.  The way the survivors respond to the pressure and stress of the desperate situation.  The way they tackle the pain of loss and constant fear for their lives.  The way in which every single survivor will cope with the end of the world in their own personal way.  And that’s exactly what this companion to the series does – it documents the lives of various characters as they try to deal with the end of the world and subsequent rise of the dead.

It’s certainly an incredibly interesting read, filling in a number of gaps, providing insight into characters that appear in a number of the ‘Autumn’ novels, and offering a much broader view of how the end of the world affected those that survived the initial infection.  And it’s this broad cross-section of how the individual survivors reacted to the stress of the situation that is by far and away the most intriguing aspect of the book.  The book is flooded with raw emotion from denial to anger to fear to joy to confusion.  It’s all in there.  It hones in on the personal impact and shines a stark light on the unavoidable trauma of the situation.

It’s nigh on impossible not to become emotionally invested in the characters of the ‘Autumn’ series.  And although this companion book only offers brief snippets of a vast sprinkling of characters’ lives, Moody nevertheless manages to draw the reader into each and every story, until they feel as much a part of the apocalypse as each of the characters are.

The re-release of the book contains a great deal of extra stories – expanding upon the original release to incorporate characters that appear in the latter two books (which hadn’t been written at the time the original version was published).  Of the stories outlined in the above synopsis, the main addition to the re-release is the ‘Beginning To Disintegrate’ stories which are detailed over four parts and detail how the first set of survivors in
Autumn: Disintegration’ (2011) come together in the abandoned housing block.  Other than this, the re-release includes a further ten stories, including one entitled ‘Breaking Point’ which details what happened to Michael Collins and Emma Mitchell in the period between ‘Autumn’ (2002) and ‘Autumn: The City’ (2003).  Finally the re-release includes the ‘Joe & Me’ (2012) story which was originally published as a chapbook by ‘This Is Horror’.  And to be fair, the ‘Joe & Me’ story ends the book, and indeed the entire ‘Autumn’ series, perfectly.  It’s pretty much an essential addition to the book – and it makes the companion so much the richer for it.

Furthermore, what should be noted is that the re-release does not include the ‘The Last Flight’ story which appeared in the original release.  To be honest, the re-release is not really worse off for it.  Indeed, the short was originally designed to be the concluding story in the series – however, with two books now following on from this – ‘Autumn: Disintegration’ (2011) and ‘Autumn: Aftermath’ (2012), as well as having ‘Joe & Me’ (2012) eventually wrapping up the series from a retrospective angle, the finality of ‘The Last Flight’ in this book would now feel somewhat out of place.  Indeed, a similar ‘The Last Flight’ story would later appear as the final chapter to ‘Autumn: Aftermath’ (2012), although the completely rewritten passage was this time told from the perspective of Donna Yorke rather than Jack Baxter.

As a whole ‘Autumn: The Human Condition’ is an incredible piece of fiction – documenting the end of the world and the rise of the dead through the eyes and emotions of so many very different perspectives.  The book is rich in characterisation and amazingly in touch with the elements that make us human.  Moody has such a talent at pulling on the readers’ heartstrings within the most oppressive and horror-rich environments.  And this book does this in bucket loads.  Absolutely essential ‘Autumn’ reading.

The original release runs for a total of 320 pages, whilst the re-release runs for a total of 449 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Autumn’ instalments:

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