Donna Yorke is reporting for the early shift at her office when her fellow co-worker is overcome by a strange coughing fit. This annoying symptom quickly turns into a bloody, choking convulsion that kills her in minutes. After trying unsuccessfully to help several colleagues who are experiencing the same symptoms, she moves the bodies to a far-off section of the office. Afraid to leave not knowing what she'll face outside, Donna gathers supplies and holds up in her small office with a sleeping bag, some snacks from the vending machine, and a flashlight to ward off the dark.
On the other side of the city, Jack Baxter is hiding in his home when he makes the fateful decision to leave his refuge hoping to find other survivors. He does --- a young girl named Clare, who lost her parents to the disease. Together they make their way into the city center. After spending a comfortable night in a department store, they make a gruesome discovery --- the corpses are moving on their own.
When Jack and Clare hear a car, they take it as a sign of life. Not only do they find two survivors, they are told there is a group of about 50 people living at the local university. The university has become a beacon for not only survivors but also the dead who surround the place. Drawn to the living, the re-animated corpses flock there. In a few short days, the rather sedate corpses become violent, attacking survivors venturing out and stalking out places where the living are congregating.
Soon after, a soldier left behind after a failed mission into the city joins up with the university group. Knowing that the food supplies are running low, a decision is made by the survivors to make their way to the military base in the hope of finding supplies and others who have made it. What they don't count on is how the dead will react to the movement.
I wasn't sure if I should refer to this book as apocalyptic or zombie fiction. As far as the survivors are concerned, it's the end of the world they know. Then again, it's also a story full of the walking dead (though I was appreciative that the word "zombie" is never mentioned). Reminding me of Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND, it manages to evoke a loneliness that feels surprisingly genuine. Author David Moody doesn't get bogged down in details, which is refreshing. Why should I know what's going on when none of the survivors do? I enjoyed the sense of lawlessness and the unknown Moody created, and he didn't deviate, which can be so tempting in a story like this one. Leaving the reader with restricted knowledge made it interesting to imagine what would have caused the metamorphosis.
This isn't a book for everyone. While it's not gross or disgusting, you won't want to read it while you're eating. And it does contain a few scenes that reminded me of a popular zombie movie. But if you're willing to look past this, AUTUMN: THE CITY is a fast and entertaining read.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on March 28, 2011