An unstoppable virus. An unimaginable situation. David Moody’s horror novel, Autumn, details the struggles a group of survivors must face following an unexplained zombie apocalypse in England. The novel succeeds at first with its fast-paced storyline but inevitably falls short due to lack of characterization and action in its final acts.
I wanted to love this book, I really did. It’s zombie storyline is what initially drew me in and when I discovered the author’s backstory, I was intrigued even more. Moody originally published Autumn online via his website and it eventually became a success after being downloaded a half a million times. About ten years later, he signed with St. Martin’s Press and had his novels officially published.
The story is simple: a zombie virus breaks out, destroying most of the population, resulting in a struggle for the remaining survivors. The plot is a classic zombie scenario a la, Night of the Living Dead, and that’s what I liked about it–at first. After continuous reading, I realized that not much more was going to happen with the story and I found myself bored.
The book starts off perfectly, in the middle of the action. The first page describes a man as he becomes infected with the unknown virus which results in his death. I enjoyed this brief scene because a lot of the time readers don’t get to see the story from that perspective; author’s usually only show a one-sided view of the zombie apocalypse–the survivor’s. It would have been interesting if Moody stuck with this idea and continued to show the readers the story from the point-of-view of the infected, but he didn’t.
After the reader is given a glimpse at the beginning stages of the virus, the story moves forward and introduces us to one of the protagonists as he realizes that something strange is happening. Soon, people all over the city begin dying unexpectedly, leaving a select few alive. Frightened and confused, the survivors make their way to a community center to take shelter, hoping to find answers as well.
The infected don’t immediately rise after death, rather, the virus works in stages. The chosen individuals meet their deaths and stay dead for several days before rising again and when they do, they aren’t violent. The group of survivors, who are slightly whiny and annoying, analyze the walking dead and conclude that they are blind and unintelligent.
I did enjoy Moody’s take on the zombies because it was creative and different from a lot of zombie stories that are thrown at us. I found it cool that the virus worked in stages and as I read, I anxiously awaited the arrival of the violence that would soon arise within the dead. And the violence did come, resulting in the typical zombies that genre fans know and love.
Before things get worse, three of the survivors at the community center band together and decide to seek shelter out of the city, where they believe it will be safest. Michael, Emma, and Carl leave the city and seek refuge in a farmhouse in the countryside. Once the group was at the farm, I couldn’t get George A. Romero’s ’68 classic out of my head.
I kept reading, hoping that once the group made it out of the city, the action would pick up. Except, it didn’t. This would have been acceptable if Moody fleshed out his characters and made them stand out in their unique ways but I didn’t get that feeling from reading. There were hardly any characteristics or traits that stuck out for each character and I realized that I didn’t know much about any of them, and I didn’t understand why this group of people decided to stick together.
Moody’s characters weren’t entirely dreadful but they weren’t insanely likeable either. Towards the end of the story, I had no affection towards any of them and I couldn’t care less if they died or not. In fact, I wanted someone to die a horrible death, just to see if I would feel anything.
I understand that Autumn’s pace was the author’s way of trying to make this story more about the struggles for humanity and show how the individuals were truly dealing with the situation. However, I don’t think that he did it correctly. There wasn’t much for the reader to go off of and the book became hard for me to finish.
There were particular scenes that had potential to be something more if Moody had just stuck with them longer and fleshed them out a bit, such as the group attempting to pillage a nearby grocery store, and a scene where they meet a nearby local.
Don’t get me wrong, this story wasn’t completely awful; it just wasn’t for me. I love simple stories and even more so when they involve zombies but, I need to know who my characters are if you expect me to keep reading and invest in your story.
I did enjoy how the story was written; it read like a movie and I could picture everything playing out on the screen in my head. There was just something missing for me. If I was going to recommend a David Moody story for you it would have to be his other zombie-esque novel, Hater. Hater is a lot more creative than Autumn and more fun.
I hate to tell a person to skip reading a book because I like to support all authors and their work, no matter how much I may like or dislike it. Autumn didn’t satiate my zombie appetite but it may be exactly what you are looking for in a story. I’m just warning you: the story is extremely slow, but if that tickles your pickle then go ahead and read it.