Saturday, October 15, 2011

Autumn: Purification and The Will to Survive: A Book Review

Author: David Moody.

Publishers: St. Martin's Griffin.

Autumn: Purification is the third zombie novel in a trilogy which began with Autumn and later Autumn: The City. There are two upcoming novels from David Moody, which deal with the same setting but with different characters called Autumn: Disintegration and Autumn: Aftermath. There are also plenty of downloadable short stories set in this fictional universe at the author's website. There is obvious evidence that Moody is a prolific writer and that is without mentioning his other zombie series, Hater. In this third novel events tone down again with characters Michael and Emma escaping a bunker overrun by the undead. Here a military unit foolishly (unbelievably?) step out of the safety of their underground lair to take on the zombie masses. They lose. This moves the story forward briefly, while a stop at an airfield cools the tension once again. Moody's farewell to these characters and others is done with a ho-hum, as if these characters are being put to rest despite their ability to survive.

The story begins with Michael and Emma at an underground military bunker with other survivor's from Autumn: The City e.g. Steve Armitage and Cooper. They find temporary refuge inside the bunker's entrance, while the military, not much deeper below, are becoming antsy. Waiting below with food and water and safety is not good enough for the soldiers, as they take the fight to zombies and the zombies win. As an aside, Moody stays away from using the word zombie, but the characteristics of the risen dead are close enough to classify them as such in this review. As well, for those unfamiliar with the earlier books, an airborne virus has wiped out 99% of the population with a 1/3 of those rising as the undead. So the world is a much less populated place, but the military still has trouble with their numbers?

Really, the battle between the military and the living dead is a plot device to move the characters out of the bunker and onto the road again. It is unbelievable that the military would take such chances to leave the bunker. However, this device is at least moving the story forward. Once on the run, Michael, Emma and the others meet up with other survivor's from a local airfield. Eventually, there is talk of regrouping on an island. The undead do not like this plan as their decomposing brains somehow return conscious thought to some and they use this gift to get closer to their prey. Cue the climax!

Going back to the early battle between the military and the flesheaters, the human need for survival would surely override any sense of boredom from living below ground. As well, the air above the bunker is poisonous to those not immune e.g. the military. So the soldiers must live behind masks on the surface while living on purified air inside the base. This book reviewer would be more than happy to wait out the zombie storm below for the first 6 months before moving above. No matter how bad a bunk mate's feet stank or a commander's voice droned, there would be no going top side unless from lack of food and water. The human will to survive is built-in and biologically developed over millions of years and to put the soldiers topside seems a stretch. And this analysis does not even look at how a well armed military loses a battle with a disease riddle foe.

As well, the pacing in this latest novel seems to have taken a step back from the earlier novel, Autumn: The City. The tone is not as slow as the first novel, Autumn. However, there is a general pause through the latter half of the book. Moody seems to back away from the tension in the early parts of the novel. The novel really needed to be picking up speed in these later chapters to build the climax. This start and go, in regards to pacing, is unfortunate and Moody misses an opportunity to keep the excitement high, while developing a more thrilling ending. Instead, the final few chapters were a tougher slog than the earlier parts as the tension wer no longer inviting this fiction fan back to the pages.

Also, the book attempts a late message involving human beings becoming extinct in the face of the growing undead hordes. This reader's interpretation was that Moody was arguing that the undead were a better alternative to the survivors. The early parts of the novel do not set up enough evidence to make this argument palatable. If the undead now have consciousness, what makes them better than the character's who also have consciousness and less malevolent tendencies? Is it there numbers alone?

The message is tacked on a little too late and this late attempt at a summary only confuses the book's final pages. Of the three books in this trilogy, this reviewer would have no qualms of recommending the second novel, Autumn: The City, to fans. The first book is even slower than the title reviewed here and the start and go pacing of Autumn: Purification means that the real climax of this series came in the second novel. The book here is just putting the period on the series. Hopefully, Moody's upcoming novels keep the thrills in horror fiction going throughout the story and not just in the middle.

Characters/believability: 7 (lots of characters to keep track of here, Michael and Emma are the major characters with lots of minors).
Plot/subplots/writing: 6.75 (the book definitely has a direction this time, there are a couple plot devices that seemed overly imaginitive).
Climax/denouement: 7 (there is lots of tension in the final few chapters, the story feels unfinished somehow, left open).

Overall: 6.9 (Autumn: The City is recommended over this title, it is more exciting in setting, story and development).

The author's website can be found here with more stories of the characters mentioned here:

David Moody's Homepage

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