The Aftermath #1
Available August 26th
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sometimes, I dream that I'm someone else.
A girl with dark hair who doesn't worry about hunger
or thirst or running from flesh-eaters.
In her world, those sorts of things don't exist.
Since the spring of 2036, when the world changed forever, Claudia and a small clan of survivors have roamed the streets of a very altered Nashville: polluted and desolate, except for the ever-present threat of cannibal Hoarders. Together they must undergo punishing tests of endurance and psychological challenge sometimes with devastating consequences all just to live another day.
With food and water in dwindling supply, and with danger lurking around every corner, no one can be trusted. And as her world starts to make less and less sense, Claudia begins to realize something terrifying: she is just a pawn in some sort of game, and all of her actions are being controlled from afar by a mysterious gamer. So when she meets a maddening and fascinating outsider named Declan, who claims to be a game moderator, she must decide whether to join him in exchange for protection and access to the border.
If they play the game right, they are each other's best hope for survival and a life beyond the only world Claudia's ever known: the terrifying live-action game known as The Aftermath.
The Aftermath has one of those horrifyingly fascinating premises; the kind that floods our minds with all kinds of questions the moment we crack the spine and doesn’t allow our curiosity to taper off for a single page until we reach the very end. After reading the blurb however, we can’t help but have a few reservations despite how intrigued we are, wondering if our upfront knowledge about the gaming aspect will hinder our overall enjoyment because it’s something we know that our protagonist unfortunately doesn’t. Being aware of something a character isn’t can sometimes be frustrating as a reader, but luckily Claudia learns the larger truth about The Aftermath–the fact that it’s a live role playing game–early on, thus removing the burden of being alone in our knowledge and allowing us to settle in with her as we try and figure out how blood and death became required sport.
Claudia is someone we learn quickly is the type of person to whom we’d want to hitch our wagon were we unlucky enough to find ourselves in The Aftermath, her confidence making her a leader who oozes reassurance yet at the same doesn't pretend their world is anything other than brutal. Even when she learns that so many of her words and actions are not her own, she stills radiates capability and determination, making us want to follow her wherever she decides to go. She genuinely cares about those in her clan despite her newfound knowledge that they are nothing more than puppets whose thoughts and actions never really belonged to them, wanting vengeance and payback for all they’ve suffered and hoping it’s within her ability to grant it.
While Claudia is a young woman we thoroughly enjoy spending time with and the subtle romance with somewhat enigmatic Declan has our feelings pinging wildly over our emotional map, the true strength of this novel is in the mystery surrounding the game. We’re fed small revelations in perfectly sized pieces, satiating us temporarily before our curiosity reaches the frustrating stage but at the same time leaving so much more just outside our grasp, a carrot dangling to lead us down the path Ms. Alexander has laid out for us. The explanation for how the game to came to be is relatively simple, and in its simplicity lies believability and plausibility. We can’t help but cross every part of our bodies that can be crossed in the hope that our reality will never reach such a state, but Ms. Alexander makes it painfully clear how easily it could happen, showing us in terrifying detail how the forward march of scientific and technological progress is both astounding and alarming.
Overall, The Aftermath is an utterly tense and completely absorbing first installment, the pages flying by and the hours seeming to pass in a matter of minutes, leaving us horribly disappointed when we reach the last page for no other reason than it means Claudia’s story is temporarily at an end.
This book was sent to me by the author free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.