The After War: (Book One of The After War Series)
by Brandon Zenner
Print Length: 445 pages
Publication Date: October 20, 2016
Genre: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic
My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0.
Two years have passed since humankind faced extinction: Two cousins are leaving the protection of their underground bunker for the first time, after a cataclysmic war and unrelenting disease ravaged the earth. On the other side of North America, a young survivalist is leaving the seclusion of his cabin deep in the woods, traveling with his aging canine companion, Winston. For individual reasons, these men are traveling east, where the fragmented lives of a small number of survivors will soon be decided by the choices of a corrupt few. Although they are not yet aware, the strength that resides inside them will soon be tested, and destiny will call for their fates to be forever intertwined. "A fierce post-apocalyptic story of war and loss, of nature's vengeance, of survival in the face of overwhelming odds." - Manhattan Book Reviews
Brian and Steve are best friends/cousins. They have lived together for two years in a well-supplied bunker hoping to survive the plague and chaos that hit America. Steve is a huge ‘bear’ of a fellow who goes in to red rages. He relies strongly on Brian to help him deal with day to day living and navigating when people are around. They were unhappy to leave friends on the surface but they promised to stay hidden for two years and then set out on their goal. They are to travel to collect Steve’s sister, Bethany, from her bunker states away. Then they are to continue east to find Bethany and Steve’s Uncle who was in the military and had some foreknowledge of the troubles to come.
Simon and his dog, Winston, emerge from a secluded cabin in the Canadian woods on the edge of America. They too are headed east to meet up with his wealthy, political family who sent him off shortly before the devastating war began two years earlier. Simon is a skilled naturalist who embraces nonviolence but is also an adept tracker with hidden warrior abilities.
Both character groups (and that includes wonderful Winston) face danger, evil and heart ache as they travel. There are some calm experiences but those don’t last long. Eventually their paths will intersect as they come together in a tense battle to save their communities from a brutal, megalomaniac, evil tyrant.
The first part of the book follows the travelers in alternating chapters fill in their histories as well as their encounters on the journey. The second part shows the communities where they arrive and find a chance at home and future. The writing moves well with good action set with mostly realistic scenes and dialogue. There are some situations which aren't fully believable such as Simon’s successful hunt first time out and Brian and Steve dumping food cans at the edge of their camp and being generally careless in their travels. On the other hand, I really liked the tidbits of natural food spources and cures the author shares through Simon’s character.
All of the main characters are well developed and had me rooting for their success. The chaos, devastation, greed and survival by theft and violence seem all too real and plausible. There are secondary characters in the mercenary tribes who are terrifyingly evil. I was able to guess some of the problems that would be faced but there were some surprise events too. It was a nice change to have a story with real (sadly enough) evil rather than zombies. There is violence and some, but not excessive, foul language.
This is a strong post-apocalyptic/dystopia story that kept my attention from beginning to end. I recommend this to readers who enjoy the genre.
Source: 2017 NetGalley. This qualifies for 2018TBR, NetGalley and Alphabet Challenges.