(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
The end of the world is only the beginning.
Zombies are on the loose and the world comes unraveled. A group of strangers on a Manhattan subway are brought together in the name of survival following the lead of Ari Brenner, a young man who represents authority because of his army uniform. Even though Ari doesn’t feel worthy of their trust, he steps up during the crisis as he’s been trained to do.
College student Lila Teske finds her non-violent beliefs tested in the crucible of a zombie attack as she takes her place fighting by Ari’s side. There are other members of the diverse group, but the focus of the story is on Lila and Ari, young people who learn about sacrifice, inner strength and even love during their ordeal.
With infrastructure down and communication with the outside world broken, the survivors head toward the nearest marina to escape New York. When they meet a lab tech who may know the key to defeating the virus, he must be protected at all costs. But the reanimated dead aren’t the only danger that impedes them on their perilous journey.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
It’s actually kind of funny that I found this book on NetGalley because 3-4 years ago I read an excerpt from the original version. The voice of the author was so unique that even though I didn’t have money to buy it at the time, it’s been on my list for a while. So when I saw a chance to read the whole book (a new revised edition, mind you), I leaped at the chance.
First off, Bonnie Dee’s zombies are not your typical zombies. They’re a little smarter and are surprisingly strong, but what really stood out for me was how you kill them. Just disabling their brain doesn’t work; you have to go for their spinal column to get to their so-called ‘primitive’ or reptilian brain that drives them. So having a bunch of guns and some sharpshooters isn’t necessarily going to save your butt this time like in so many zombie books. They’re also a little smarter and some of them are quite strong, so you’ve got the makings of a perfectly terrifying apocalyptic scenario.
So while the zombies and general world-building was good, my relationship with the characters was so-so at best. Ari and Lila were both very good, solid characters with lots of development. Ari has to fit into his unasked for leadership role as the only man with military training around and Lila has to reconcile the new everyday violence with her pacifist tendencies. If they don’t succeed in changing, they’re all going to die. There’s a definite romantic element to the plot as Ari and Lila become close, but it’s not always the main focus. The main focus is survival.
That was the really good part of the characterization. The bad part is that for her secondary characters, Bonnie Dee tends to use stereotypes. The pampered model, the cute and helpless kid, the scientist with the cure, the disgruntled teenager, etc. I would have liked her to flesh out her secondary characters a whole lot more, but she never really did. There was so much potential with many of these characters that was never lived up to, so in a way the characterization was rather disappointing when you compare it to that of the two main characters.
However, the plot is incredibly fast-paced. Bonnie Dee grabs you into her story and doesn’t let you go until you’re done reading. There’s a constant undercurrent of tension from the very real threat of the zombies as well as the many interpersonal conflicts that crop up in a diverse group of survivors. She has an excellent writing style that describes things in detail without ever really letting go of the fast pace. Thankfully, there was no middle sag in this book either as Ari’s group got their footing. It’s fast-paced pretty much all the time, which is what you really want in a post-apocalyptic novel.
So overall, I was pretty happy with how After the End turned out. The main characters were good, the zombies were terrifying and new and the plot was insanely fast-paced. The only real letdown was the secondary characters, which could have had so much more depth and added so much more to the story.
I give this book 4/5 stars.