*This review will contain spoilers!*
"Do you think it was a virus that did this to them?" Carl asked. "Emma seems to think so. Or do you think it was-"
"Don't know and I don't care."
"What do you mean, you don't care?"
"What difference does it make? What happened has happened. It's the old cliché, isn't it? If you get knocked down by a car, does it matter what colour it is? [...] It doesn't matter what caused any of this. What's done is done and I can't see the point in wasting time coming up with bullshit theories and explanations when none of it will make the slightest bit of difference. The only thing that any of us have any influence and control over now is what we do tomorrow."
When the opening sentence of a novel is 'Billions died in less than twenty-four hours', you know you're going to be in for a rough ride. 'Autumn', the first book in David Moody's extremely popular series, kicks off with a bang and pulls no punches throughout its entirety.
A mysterious virus infects the earth, killing millions within seconds. There's no explanation for it: everyone just dies. Michael's teaching a class when a girl starts struggling for breath, but within a minute the entire class is dead. Emma goes out to buy groceries, but while she's perusing the aisles the rest of the shoppers all keel over. Carl's driving home after an early morning job, shocked when he sees a car unflinchingly drive straight into a tree: when he continues driving and discovers every road filled with bodies, he knows he'll find the worse when he gets home to his partner Sarah and Gemma, their little girl.
Very quickly their lives converge, because businessman Stuart decides to set a large bonfire and play loud music from his car in the attempt to gather survivors, desperate not to be the last human left alive. A group of over twenty people meet at the community centre, where they lock themselves in and ignore the bodies covering the world outside.
Tensions quickly rise, because Michael decides it'll be best if they move on to a more secure location. Carl and Emma agree with him, but Stuart and the rest of the survivors refuse to leave their safe haven. Their fear of going outside increases exponentially when, a few days after everyone dropped dead, a third of the bodies rise and start stumbling aimlessly around.
As you can imagine: this is a zombie book. But it's not your regular zombie book, filled with uninhibited biting and chewing. This book is a slow burner, taking its time to build up the horror and to really develop the tension. You see, for the first few days the zombies do nothing but aimlessly wander. After a while, they start to react to noises and lights, following their senses and surrounding areas where there's more sound. It's not too long before they start becoming more hostile, openly lunging and grabbing at survivors. This meant that I was extremely impressed.
I love zombie literature and films, but this was one of the first times I'd experienced the zombies taking so long to become aggressive. The explanation they give for it makes sense - that it's taking a while for their senses to return, and they're just following instinct when they get up and start moving around - and while there's no reason for the disease or for the population that survived, I'm hoping that'll come in the following installments.
The different twist on the genre definitely held my attention, and there's no question in my mind that I'm going to be reading the rest of this series (and pretty soon, if I can clear a time in my exceedingly busy schedule). Having such different characters working together made for interesting relationships between them, and while there's potential for a relationship occurring between Michael and Emma, I sincerely hope that it won't - the need to survive should definitely be where they focus their attentions. I'm not surprised that the gang went and found a farm out in the countryside (it seems to be the first thing on everyone's mind in a zombie apocalypse - 'The Walking Dead', anyone?) but I'm glad that they've moved on from the area at the end of the novel, leaving their future and their plans up in the air and with many possible options. With the second novel in the series being called 'Autumn: The City', I'm pretty sure I can imagine where they're going to go - I'm still looking forward to it, though.
If you want something different from a zombie novel, this is definitely a good one for you. It's also good if you don't like overt violence or gore because - at least in this first installment - there's nothing too gruesome to contend with (I mean, there haven't even been any on the page zombie bites yet, so that has to count for something!).