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23Jan/120

Autumn by David Moody

Zombie Fiction

Autumn by +David Moody
Author Site: http://www.djmoody.co.uk/

Rating: An 8 out of 10 on my personal zombie scale.

How British zombie fiction differs from American zombie fiction -

This is a British author (I'm assuming) and book ergo if you're familiar with the type, it has fewer pages than American publishers tend to put on the shelves. I'm not sure why that is, never bothered to look into it but it's been something I've run across with many such publications. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation. But if you believe the intrinsic value of a book is based on how many pages it has you might be turned off by it. You'd be wrong of course.

Firstly is the word Zombie is never used. The walking dead corpses are just referred to as 'bodies' or 'shells'.

Another thing that immediately will strike you if you're familiar with zombie fiction (and why would you read this review if you weren't) is the lack of guns in the work. The heroes aren't saddled with Colt M1911 Long Slides shooting .45 calibre 230 grain ACP ammo out of extended capacity magazines they load through beveled magazine wells with hand stone polished trigger mechanisms.

American writers, at least that know or have done a bit of research love to throw those kinds of numbers out there. The other side of the American coin is the survivors just carry a 'rifle' or 'shotgun' and find 'rilfe ammo' and 'shotgun ammo' because they really don't know anything about guns.

Weapons of anything other than a makeshift nature are completely absent in the story. Someone does find a 'rifle' and one shot is fired the entire novel but that's it.

A much more subtle thing to note is that there is a distinct lack of assholeism in the survivors. They work together except where they wouldn't due to real emotional and psychological trauma of such an event.

There are no scenes of rape, torture or sado-masochism by anyone. No packs of biker gangs or military gone rogue misogynistic male driven regimes, no religions fanatics turned sex communes.

If you happened to read my blog post here about my advice to budding zompoc writers those last two paragraphs nail several of my rules on how to write good zompoc.

There are no explicit sex scenes of any kind or actually sex of any kind or even implied. This is a good thing. If I want to read erotica, I'll specifically read erotica, I don't need it mixed into everything I read.

What the book is about

Essentially the emotional and psychological terror of what the survivors of a zombie apocalypse might undergo as they struggle to survive.

Like most zombie fiction the reason for the event is never explained, and in most cases rightly so. The lucky or unlucky bastard who lives past the first 24 hours is unlikely to ever find out. Who does he ask?

In Autumn, 1 in possibly a 50,000 (best guess based on the numbers mentioned) is immune to the virus. For those not immune it sounds like it's a virus that sweeps across England in a kind of chain reaction or wave. As the wave hits a person's soft tissues, specifically throat and lungs swell up and burst causing people to suffocate as they're unable to breathe. Within a minute or two of the wave front rolling over a town, the entire town is dead where they were.

Leaving behind the 1 in 50,000. And there is no age preference to the virus. The 1 year old, the 5 year old, the 95 year old are all just as likely. So how many babies, kids and infirm managed to survive the virus and then die due to lack of care? Probably drops the realistic survivor ratio much lower.

The survivors typically bury their heads for a day or two, pulling the covers up and try to wish it all away. Eventually they get hungry or scared or curious enough to venture out and start to run into others.

And then something wakes up in the bodies. And they start to move, completely at random like some large scale Brownian system.

Odd but not much more odd than everyone dying across the country in minutes.

And then the bodies start to notice and be attracted by sounds. Okay, getting weirder.

And then the bodies start to come after the living. Now things are starting to reach a certain suck factor for the survivors that goes beyond the country dying.

[In an aside we never learn just how wide spread the event is. Again rightly, how do the people who's eyes we're experiencing it through find out? But based on the lack of response we can assume it's the whole country and quite likely the world.]

We witness this activity through the eyes of primarily two heroes, a man and woman who are part of a trio of survivors that split off from a larger group of 20 or so who were simply too frightened and shell shocked to be able to function in any faction.

A pretty realistic scenario and ratio in my opinion. The number of people who can handle such a thing is going to a small portion of any group. The rest will exist in denial.

We watch our trio as they try to find some place of safety as the bodies become more aware and more vicious and how they deal with it. And how the continued overwhelming impact of the event continues to work at them.

I think the author nailed it in this respect. Like I actually said in a post here, I'd hate to be grouped with the typical survivor of a zombie apocalypse.

Conclusion

I enjoyed the book, quite a bit especially for it's refreshing viewpoint on the genre. If you're a fan of the genre then you could do far worse, far far worse, trust me on this.

From a human factor realism standpoint I think the author nailed the likely reactions of a completely random group of survivors of an event that killed virtually everyone and left them alive in the aftermath.

His zombies or bodies in this case and their reactions to sound would tend to behave in the way described as he envisioned them. One zombie is close enough to hear something and moves toward it. That zombie draws other zombies which draws other zombies etc. in a natural migratory kind of way.

I like how it's not a case of one bite and you're dead and I like how the zombies became progressively less of a threat individually and then in small groups. But bunny rabbits are cute and fluffy and no threat but a 1000 bunny rabbits will strip you to the bone in seconds if they get it in their heads to do so.

What I disagreed with

I disagree with how long a dead body can continue to last in a way that allows it to function mechanically when left above ground at the mercy of wind, wave and wiggly. The bodies would have been crawling with maggots chewing through their flesh, destroying muscle tissue. The frequent rains and damp mentioned would have accelerated decay but this would be countered to a greater or less degree by the cold so that might be a wash.

I think in the event of a 'real' zombie invasion most corpses would be decomposed to the point where they would pose little threat to a healthy survivor after a month or so as the tissues liquefy. Bodies tend to become a bag of fluid and bone held together by the skin fairly quickly unless protected from air, humidity, insects in some fashion. Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe and other Discovery type shows have edumacated me on that.

Decomp above ground exposed to bugs is the worst possible scenario for the zombie who's trying to make it to their next birthday.

So when the zompoc happens, just remember, unless you live somewhere so cold it preserves the body (and keeps them frozen and unable to move) then you probably only need to survive a couple of months typically. Less in hotter humid climates.

Which is why a lot of zombie fiction makes a point to either nuke the zombies and kill the bacteria that's destroying them with the fallout so they last and last or that 'for some reason' the decomposition is arrested after a certain point. Usually the point where the zombies are just nasty to look at but still mobile.

Embedded Link

David Moody
Official website of David Moody, author of HATER, DOG BLOOD and the AUTUMN zombie books.

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