About Me

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A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Aftertime, by Sophie Littlefield

Aftertime is a blow-to-the-gut, first of a series by veteran mystery writer Sophie Littlefield. The world she creates is a few years or a few months in our future, but vastly changed. Cass, the protagonist, arrives lost and confused, acts in desperation and fury, squeaking through conflicts and narrowly escaping moral danger and worse. Her heart is wracked by guilt; her body is ravaged by injury and disease; her mind is clouded by both. Cass’ way is uncertain, but she is driven to pursue it full tilt.

The physical descriptions are at times evocative and purely physical—the smell of the miracle plant “kaysev” cooking, for instance—while others are emotionally wrenching to read. This is not a book for children, even the fairly big kids. The frank and unsentimental descriptions of sex, of violence, of social decay are woven into the fabric of the book. They carry the plot along. They are much of what Littlefield wants us to see about Cass.

As a result, reading Aftertime did not go quickly for me. I generally prefer somewhat younger YA fare, or speculative fiction, science-fiction, or fantasy with more magic spells and telepathic dragons. Still, I could feel the story building, the protagonist changing, the world coming into clearer, and often painful, focus. And as it did, I felt more drawn to the story, as draining an experience as it was.

The end is cathartic. It has elements in common with the end of an action flick—I half-expected to hear the music from the end of Terminator II: Judgment Day, or see plumes of evaporating dry ice meant to convince me of a fire. The disturbing parts of the story were prelude to the resolution, but it’s a resolution that leaves the way clear to sequels. There is much in Cass’ world left to accomplish—to repair, to redress—and Cass is the woman for the job.


[note: The author very politely points out that this is not "YA" - I've seen a lot of definitions of Young Adult lit, and this is very mature for kids, but if your young adults are twentysomethings, this is just about right; it's also okay for older people who want to feel like twentysomethings, though we have to watch out for heart stress - this is pretty powerful stuff.]