Saturday 18 February 2023

Autumn: Exodus (2022) by David Moody - Zombie Horror Book Review

I stayed up until three in the morning (at the time of writing) finishing reading Autumn: Exodus, the ninth book in David Moody's sublime zombie Autumn series, and the final book in a most unexpected new trilogy. As I always say, Autumn is my favourite zombie series, and so Autumn: Dawn dropping in 2021 was a fantastic surprise. This was followed up at the start of 2022 with Autumn: Inferno, and this third book coming out in the same year. Unavoidable spoilers for the previous two books to follow.

Exodus picks up eighty six days after the majority of the worldwide human population suddenly died, with the survivors from Inferno having survived the devastating fire that destroyed much of central London, due to hiding out in the Tower of London. With no reason to stay in the doomed city, and with the hope of finding somewhere outside of the city that is safe and secure, the majority of the couple of hundred survivors decide to leave via boat. While some are content with anywhere that feels like it has a modicum of safety, others are determined to travel to the remote, near mythical self sustaining community of Ledsey Cross, a place where it seems the devastating viral outbreak didn't manage to reach. Wherever they go though, they must deal with the chaos that the vicious Piotr and his goons have left in their wake from their own cowardly abandonment of the core group in the previous novel.

As much as I did love Inferno I was impatient for the characters to leave London. I fully expected that the majority of Exodus would still take place in the city, perhaps not thinking too deeply about what the title word means. It was cool then to see that the group almost immediately leave the city behind, with the majority of the book acting as a road-trip style situation. This sees them bounced around from thrilling situation to thrilling situation, with many of the group jettisoned along the way. There is a culling of the characters all throughout the novel, with some dying, but much more of the group splintering off and choosing their own paths to follow. In previous Autumn novels there may have been some resolution to these characters who decided to leave, but here, with the focus so much on the journey to Ledsey Cross, once characters have left the group they are gone entirely, never really mentioned again. I get it would have interrupted the flow, and I get the focus should be on the group itself, but I did find myself wondering the fates of people left behind.

The defining moment of the Autumn series for me was in the very first book when the characters discover to their horror that the zombies behaviour is starting to change. Moody's undead were already different, not having any type of hunger for flesh or brains, but the change was something that always made these ghouls fascinating to me. The many gruesomely detailed descriptions of the crushed crowds of London dead are switched out here for more spread out and sporadic undead. Their behaviour delightfully does evolve yet again, leading to some exciting situations for the forced upon heroes. Piotr is the real antagonist force here, I enjoyed how he is made into something of a boogeyman, someone who is indirectly causing pain and suffering for the group even when he is nowhere near them. It was always inevitable there would be a reckoning with this character, and his group is the rare deviation where the story does move away from the protagonists, giving the bad guys several fun chapters of their own. The story wraps itself up in satisfying fashion, perhaps slightly abrupt, but with a sense of satisfaction for me. Moody has stated he intends for this to be the final Autumn book he will ever write, and short of a Misery type situation where a captured Moody is forced to write more books for my own amusement, I see this as great a place to end. Previously with the short story collection, Autumn: The Human Condition there has been some kind of final word on the undead's true motivations, but here, to my mind, it is the first time that the human survivors have also stumbled onto this fact.

I adore these books, there is just something about the depiction of the world that made it seem somehow more realistic to my mind. Perhaps it is the English setting, or perhaps it is the difference with how the zombies act, may even be the very grounded and normal characters, but these books just sing to me. Autumn: Exodus was both a great way to end the trilogy, as well as a damn fine Autumn book in its own right.


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