Autumn: The City
By David Moody
St. Martin’s Griffin
Donna Yorke is reporting for the early shift at her office when her colleague is overcome by a strange coughing fit that quickly turns into a bloody, choking convulsion killing her in minutes. After trying unsuccessfully to help several colleagues and friends in the office experiencing the same symptoms, she moves the bodies to a far off section of the office not wanting to look at her dead co-workers. Afraid to leave not knowing what she’ll face outside, Donna gathers supplies and holds up in her small office with a sleeping bag, some snacks from the vending machine, and a flashlight to ward off the dark.
On the other side of the city, Jack Baxter is hiding in his home when he makes the fateful decision to leave his refuge in the hope of finding other survivors. He finds one; a young girl named Clare who lost her parents to the disease. Together they make their way into the city center and after spending a comfortable night in a department store, they make a gruesome discovery — the corpses are moving around, awkwardly, but they’re moving on their own. When Jack and Clare hear a car they track it down hoping to find others like themselves. Not only do they find two survivors but are told there is a group of about fifty people living at the local university.
The university has become a beacon for not only survivors but the dead who surround the place. Drawn to the living, the re-animated corpses flock to the university, and at first are calm almost unaware of the living walking among them but that soon changes. In a few short days, the rather sedate corpses become violent, attacking survivors venturing out and stalking out places where the living are congregating.
Soon after, a soldier left behind after a failed mission into the city joins up with the university group. Knowing food supplies are running low, a decision is made by the survivors to make their way to the military base in the hope of finding supplies and other survivors. What they don’t count on is how the dead will react to the plan.
I wasn’t sure if I should refer to this book as apocalypse or zombie fiction. As far as the survivors are concerned, it’s the end of the world they knew. Then again, it’s also a story full of the walking dead; although I was appreciative of the fact Moody doesn’t mention the word zombie anywhere in the book. Reminding me of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Moody manages to evoke a loneliness that feels surprising real slowly introducing us to each survivor along the way. One thing he doesn’t do is get bogged down in details and in a way it’s refreshing. Why should I know what’s going on when none of the survivors do? Some might find that annoying but in this book, I enjoyed the sense of lawlessness and the unknown Moody created and he didn’t deviate which can be so tempting in a story like this one. Leaving the reader with very little knowledge made it interesting to imagine what would have caused the metamorphosis.
This isn’t a book for everyone. While it’s not gross or disgusting, quite restrained actually, it’s not something you read at lunch either. And it does have a few scenes that reminded me of a popular zombie movie but if you’re willing to look past those small bits, Autumn: The City is a fast and entertaining read.
Autumn: The City is the second book in the Autumn series.