Rebirth (Luna Books)
Although I’m not a horror fan, I have read some of the large crop of zombie novels that have been clogging the shelves for the last couple of years. Recently, I read Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime, and I had nothing but high praise for it. Now she returns to her post-apocalyptic Northern California with Rebirth, a chilling look at the depth to which our society might descend.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Civilization has fallen, leaving California an unforgiving, decimated place. But Cass Dollar beat terrible odds to get her missing daughter back—she and Ruthie will be happy.
Yet with the first winter, Cass is reminded that happiness is fleeting in Aftertime. Ruthie retreats into silence.
Flesh-eating Beaters still dominate the landscape. And Smoke, Cass’s lover and strength, departs on a quest for vengeance, one that may end him even if he returns.
The survivalist community Cass has planted roots in is breaking apart, too. Its leader, Dor, implores Cass to help him recover his own lost daughter, taken by the totalitarian Rebuilders. And soon Cass finds herself thrust into the dark heart of an organization promising humanity’s rebirth—at all costs.
Bound to two men blazing divergent paths across a savage land, Cass must overcome the darkness in her wounded heart, or lose those she loves forever.”
Cass has become one of my favorite characters to read about. It’s not easy to read her trials—the inner demons that she battles are often gut-wrenching—but she come across as more real than almost every other character that I’ve read. Her voice is clear, pained and brutally honest. Anybody who has suffered from self-esteem issues will recognize the shadows of their own struggles in Cass’s inner narrative. It’s impossible not to agonize along with her as she navigates her problems.
Cass’s issues aren’t the only difficulties in the story, obviously. Hanging over everything is the terror of the Beaters. To me, it’s more horrific because these human beings are still alive and unable to control their own actions anymore. It’s not like a traditional zombie, which is already dead; rather, these creatures are, in a terrible way, still the people that they once were. They live and breathe and huddle together for warmth. The small vestiges of humanity that remain to them made some of the scenes with Beaters very hard to read.
Littlefield also throws in the problems that can be caused by those who should be allies—namely, the groups of people who want to advance their own agenda no matter the cost. In this novel, the Rebuilders are the “enemy”, believing that their way is the only way. Such all-or-nothing thinking is understandable in the extreme situations portrayed in this novel, but understanding it doesn’t make it any less troublesome. The author paints a realistic portrait of a totalitarian group that thinks it knows the one true way.
Put all of these things together and you get an ass-kickingly good novel. Mindless horrors exist side by side with horrors that are all too well thought out. Northern California’s landscape springs to vivid life in the aftermath of an unfathomable catastrophe. And in the middle of it all is one woman, damaged yet determined, with a voice that touches something in every reader. Rebirth is just as good as Aftertime, and this is one series that I wish could go on for a long time.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 23, 2012.