Verdict: The characterization in THE AFTER WAR is where author Brandon Zenner’s writing prowess truly shines. Every character in the story feels fleshed out, while remaining mysterious enough to keep readers engaged in trying to determine how things will turn out.
THE AFTER WAR: PART I TO ALICE tells the stories of two groups of survivors – one a pair of cousins and the other a young man and his dog – who are tasked with venturing towards the East Coast, following a devastating war that has left the United States in tatters. The potential of a terrible war affecting US soil is a truly horrifying thing to consider, but it is a reality the characters are forced to deal with. The nation has been torn apart by tragedy and devastation, but some intrepid souls have managed to survive the apocalyptic event. Disease, war and famine may have wiped out much of the country’s population, but that won’t stop the survivors from bravely attempting to carry out the missions they had been tasked with. Cousins Simon and Brian come from exceedingly different backgrounds, but they are both determined to make their way back towards the East Coast of the US, in search of the family members they were forced to leave before the outbreak of war.
The characterization in THE AFTER WAR is where author Brandon Zenner’s writing prowess truly shines. Every character in the story feels fleshed out, while remaining mysterious enough to keep readers engaged in trying to determine how things will turn out. Every character has their flaws, but Zenner masterfully weaves their personalities together in an intriguing mesh of strength, weakness, humanity and instinct.
THE AFTER WAR is not without its narrative flaws. Pacing becomes an issue when travel distances are abruptly skipped over to keep the story flowing. While understandable when so much ground must be covered, there are times when the jumps are a bit jarring. Zenner also struggles with landscape description and has a tendency to cling too tightly to straight-laced simile when attempting to express the type of destruction the characters encounter on their journeys.
THE AFTER WAR shines most when the author allows the strength of his characters to carry the story towards the climax. As a reader, it was easy to get committed enough to each character to actually care about their journeys and feel real emotion during their triumphs and pitfalls. The less than stellar landscape descriptions do little to affect the story for readers who are imaginative enough to fill in the blanks. Much like Simon and Brian, readers are left wondering what lies in front for the protagonists, while in anticipation to devour part two of this post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller.
~Brian Belko for IndieReader