Today’s review is for the post-apocalyptic novel Aftermath by Meiling Colorado.
Synopsis: Aftermath follows a community of survivors trying to rebuild society after a series of devastating wars have left the world in shambles. Our cast of characters struggle to farm the land, defend their homes against bandits and raiders, and even have to withstand a highly infectious disease that has ravaged other communities. One of the side effects of this disease is that the few that survive discover that they have been given superhuman abilities. Our survivors must then learn how to cope with these new powers and the growing pains that come with trying to master new and dangerous skills.
Good: Meiling juggles a lot characters in Aftermath and she manages to make them each have distinct voices and personalities. Keeping that many characters interesting and distinct enough not to get lost in the crowd is no small feat and she manages to do so throughout this novel. To piggyback off of the first good comment, there are several generations of characters in this story. You have the elderly Leiran, the parents, Yeshra and Dinain, but you also have the kids like Ren and Lilith. Each of the generations of characters play a fairly even part of the story. Many stories that have teen characters tend to focus on the teens almost exclusively and make all the parents and older characters feel like backstory and supporting cast, but Meiling manages to make all of these characters and ages feel real and important. Even though the overall tone of the novel is pretty dire with humanity struggling to bounce back from wars and plagues, there is plenty of light-hearted banter, romance, and teasing that happens throughout the novel. You really get a sense of people trying to make the best of this bleak new reality and it doesn’t feel forced or defeatist. People are actually trying to live life, not just accept things the way they are. It’s nice to see a post-apocalyptic world where not everyone is a selfish prick who only looks out for number one and kills everyone who gets in their way. People are actually working together for the good of society and it’s refreshing for this genre.
Bad: Aftermath is a good novel and has a lot of good points, but I do have to point out one thing that really bugged me while reading it. There are so many characters whose names start with the same letters. I know this sounds silly, but hear me out. There are so many characters whose names start with the letter L. We have Leiren, Lorenna, Lilith, Liam, Lee, and Leni that I can remember. I think there might have been a Lane and Lyn in there somewhere too. It was kind of confusing who was who at first especially since Leiren, Lorenna, and Lilith were together a lot throughout the book. There are also a Ren and Resnan that are the two teen boy characters who I thought were the same person for a while since they were both around the same age. That’s on me for not paying enough attention, but still it’s helpful for characters to have very distinct names so the readers don’t get confused especially with such a large cast of characters. The only other negative thing I can really say about Aftermath is that there wasn’t a clear main conflict in the novel. There were several minor conflicts which were all fun to read through like a love triangle, the drama of teen romance, the struggle to get people to work together, travelling through dangerous places, the plague survivors learning how to use their new powers, a murder, and of course the overall fight for survival, but there was no singular conflict propelling the narrative. All of these minor conflicts work themselves out fairly quickly and don’t really escalate beyond a chapter or two. In many ways this is a type of realism. Life doesn’t necessarily have huge grandiose quests we all go on, but there is a feeling of not really knowing where the story is going since there is no main objective looming on the horizon.
Final Thoughts: One of the perks of not really knowing where this story is going is that I expect I’ll be surprised to see where this story goes. Meiling is working on a sequel and I can’t wait to see what happens next with our survivors and the new world they are building for themselves in the ruins of the old. One of the best things about this story is that is very different from what you would expect. It is a breath of fresh air in a genre that tends to be mired in bleak hopelessness and dark facets of humanity coming to light. Instead you actually get to see good people trying to do good in a world that sorely needs it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to see a different side of the apocalypse.