Horizon (Aftertime #3) by Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: LUNA/Jan. 2012
Thanks to NetGalley for providing a review copy
Cass Dollar is a survivor. She’s overcome the meltdown of civilization, humans turned mindless cannibals, and the many evils of man.
But from beneath the devastated California landscape emerges a tendril of hope. A mysterious traveler arrives at New Eden with knowledge of a passageway North; a final escape from the increasingly cunning Beaters. Clutching this dream, Cass and many others decamp and follow him into the unknown.
Journeying down valleys and over barren hills, Cass remains torn between two men. One—her beloved Smoke—is not so innocent as he once was. The other keeps a primal hold on her that feels like Fate itself. And beneath it all, Cass must confront the worst of what’s inside her dark memories from when she was a Beater herself. But she, and all of the other survivors, will fight to the death for the promise of a new horizon.
Cass Dollar and her young daughter Ruthie have settled into an uneasy existence at New Eden, after the events of Rebirth left her lover, Smoke, in a coma. She continues her affair with Dor, and is dedicated to Ruthie, her garden of new growth, and kaysev, which is essential to the food supply of New Eden.
Soon, the Beaters start to show an unnerving proclivity to learn things such as group hunting (of humans, of course) and even swimming,so the residents of New Eden must flee their home. When another group swoops in on horseback to help, with stories of a safe enclave to the north, the structure of New Eden is threatened, and loyalties are tested as they make their way, hopefully, to safety and a new life.
Cass has been through so, so much, and Horizon is probably the toughest on her. No, it definitely is. Cass is struggling, again, with sobriety, and in this terrifying new world, full of Beaters (the cannibalistic infected) and human dangers, alcohol is a slippery slope; one which Cass will find herself sliding down more and more each day, but she’s determined to pull out of it, not only for Ruthie’s sake, but for her own. Cass, not the warmest and fuzziest of women to begin with, has trouble connecting to others in the camp, and keeps to herself as much as possible. This may have a little bit to do with the fact that she was actually one of the infected once, but recovered, and as a result, is something just a bit more than human. One of the things I loved most about Horizon is that finally, Cass is beginning to actually like herself. Everything has been about her daughter, which is, of course, a good thing, but there’s always been a vein of self loathing in Cass, but that’s finally being replaced by hope and a will to live. The love triangle between Cass, Smoke, and Dor is heart wrenching, especially since Cass can’t seem to let go of the fact that Smoke left her to avenge a past transgression. Has Dor taken his place in her heart? I’ll leave that one for you, but I will say that not only is Horizon Cass’ story, of course, we also get to know Sammi, Dor’s daughter, quite a bit better, which I really enjoyed. There is not one simple character in these novels. They are full of rich and fully developed people as well as an environment thick with hardship and almost constant danger. There are a few jaw droppers in this one, and some mysteries from the past novels are wrapped up, to nice effect. Ms. Littlefield’s writing is as taut, raw, and soul wrenching as always, and she doesn’t flinch from hard truths. She also doesn’t skimp on the action (and yes, that definitely means zombies), and keeps the tension ratcheted up to a deafening scale. If you’ve already discovered this series, you’ll love Horizon just as much as Aftertime and Rebirth, and if you haven’t, I envy you the ability to read the series straight through, because it’s so, so good. The author has captured magic in a bottle with this series, and I highly recommend it!