Before David Moody terrified American readers with his high-octane, nail-biting apocalypse thrillers Hater (review) and Dog Blood (review), his zombie throw-back, Autumn, was already an internet phenomenon. Originally offered as a free download, Moody’s goal was to generate interest in his work and create a strong fan base which proved fruitful in the success of his subsequent Hater series. Five years and more than half a million downloads later, David Moody’s 5-part series is finally getting the proper release it deserves when the first installment, Autumn, invades bookstores October 26th. Around the time Moody’s Autumn was gaining unprecedented fandom in the glow of warm computer screens, horror hounds were celebrating Edgar Wright’s love letter to the zombie subgenre with Shaun of the Dead. Its star and co-writer, Simon Pegg, is an avid horror fan and zombie aficionado. So, just a few years after Shaun of the Dead was released, Pegg argued for a return to the slow-moving zombie tradition in his article for The Guardian “The Dead and the Quick” (Nov. 4, 2008), a reaction to the suped-up zombie trend. Pegg’s point was simple, but astute; “Death is a disability, not a superpower.” Simon Pegg, if you’re reading this, I promise if you pick up a copy of Autumn you will be an instantly contented zombie purist. Moody’s Autumn is a return to form, keeping the poetic subtlety (as Pegg called it) of the zombie, borrowing classic Romero-zombie conventions, but still managing to be fresh among hoards of rotting corpses. And perhaps most importantly, Moody’s zombie apocalypse tale is frightening in its seriousness and grimly contemplative, making Autumn the cold, sober side of the same fanboy coin—a grave realization compared to its parody-driven, comedic film counterpart Shaun.
The reader is not a passive observer privy to behind-the-scenes revelations or exclusive information in a Moody book. You, dear reader, are one of the damned. We begin our troubled journey when people of no commonality begin to choke, spit blood, and finally drop dead. After several pages 99% of the population is already deceased! As corpses litter the buildings and streets right where they fell, survivors begin to make their way to the isolated areas free of corpses. Two men hole up in an abandoned community center and, like the illumination that lured Bill and Josella to the survivor camp in Day of the Triffids, their bonfire and music draw more of the living from the neighboring locations. After twenty-five people make their way to the community center, tension quickly builds as people try to figure out what to do next. Some panic in the face of this incomprehensible pandemic. Do we stay put, relatively safe from the ever-rotting corpses? Do we seek out a more isolated shelter in the country? Michael, one of the community center survivors, finally decides to leave the center and head out to an isolated farmhouse which he believes will have less dead bodies lying around and be a safer hideout. Although Michael was once crippled with anxiety in front of a crowd in his pre-apocalypse existence, Michael becomes a natural leader in the face of extreme adversity. Emma, a young medical student, and Carl, suffering the loss of his wife and daughter, agree to join him.
Our protagonists face all the trappings of struggle in an apocalypse. They have to find the best shelter, figure out where to get food, and maintain the will to continue to fight another day. So, what makes Moody’s zombie tale any different from what we’ve already seen before? The most palpable difference is the development of the plague. Usually, the dead claw their way from shallow graves reanimated by a government chemical or conspiracy gone awry. Once free, they shuffle along in search of the living to satisfy their hunger with human flesh (sometimes brains). Moody’s zombies don’t immediately rise from the dead. Instead, the virus, or whatever has plagued the population, develops in phases. Almost the entire population drops dead in the first phase and for a few days they remain where they dropped, rotting naturally like a corpse should. This simple plot device keeps the reader guessing. If the corpses don’t immediately rise, like we’ve come to expect, how could you possibly predict what change will occur in subsequent phases? Moody is faithful to the conventions set forth by genre greats, like Romero, so at times the plot advances in expected ways. But, by delaying the eventual rise of the dead, Moody takes an unconventional approach to convention which gives the read a kinetic energy that will excite readers. This plot device is also successful in adding an interesting dimension to the character development. The living don’t have the luxury of banding together, driven by pure survival instinct, to fight off flesh-eating zombies. They have ample time to grapple with worry and panic. Any attempt at brief refuge from the chaotic situation only proves to irritate their already fragile state of mind and complicate their immense loss. The unfortunate souls of Autumn have no choice but to sit and wait…quietly. Of course, that’s not to say the reader will do the same. There is consistent action driving the plot that makes this a read you will quickly burn through. For every problem solved, two more arise. An essential resource, seemingly a saving grace, can quickly become an unforeseen hindrance. There is no shortage of hurdles for our accursed survivors.
Moody’s Autumn will infect your local bookshelves just in time for Halloween. This is a must read for fans of speculative fiction of the apocalyptic variety and especially for zombie enthusiasts. And for those who are burnt out on the zombie subgenre or have lost faith in its ability to frighten, Autumn is the perfect book to reinvigorate your dulled senses. Moody’s prose is haunting, casting a shadow over the reader which holds their imagination hostage long after the last page. I became so absorbed in this book that taking a break was like coming up for a breath of fresh air and in those fleeting moments everything looks so colorful, bustling, and alive in comparison. A dark gloom seeps from the pages and Moody’s haunting melody seduces the reader, unkind to their emotional fragility. You can get your copy of Autumn at any major bookstore or get it on Kindle. After reading Autumn be sure to pick up the film adaptation starring the late David Carradine (Death Race 2000, Kill Bill Part 1 and 2).
You can find out more about David Moody and his projects on his website.
Destroy The Brain will giveaway one copy of Autumn, so check back soon for your chance to win!