Book Review: Hereafter by C.K. Crigger

Hereafter 2Hereafter
C.K. Crigger
Read by Rebecca Cook
Books in Motion, June 2013
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book
Also available in trade paperback and ebook
Amber Quill Press, November 2012

From the publisher—

Border Patrol agent Lily Turnbow is fighting a terrorist for her life when everything around her dissolves into a maelstrom of light and thunder. Awakening one hundred years in the future, she finds a ruined world in which bands of mutants are at war with normal humans, and discovers she is as changed as her surroundings.

Resurrected into a society only now beginning to recover from the Event that almost wiped out humanity, Lily has become a Cross-up, acquiring magical powers she never had before. Driven by a bewildering set of circumstances, she uses these powers for the good of the O’Quinn clan, a sword-and-horse society, that has, against their better judgment, taken her in.

But with few exceptions, these people are not as appreciative of her help as one might expect. Even after killing one of her “own kind”-the serial killer Philip Barnes, a Cross-up known in this time as Screenmaster-the O’Quinns view her with fear and suspicion. With the exception of O’Quinn cousin Nate Quick, who is her most vocal advocate, the clan can’t wait to get rid of her. Sent before the clan elders, Lily’s alternatives are banishment into a lonely, friendless world where no one trusts anybody, or death.

But Lily isn’t willing to die-again.

I’ve been hooked on post-apocalyptic fiction for so many years I can’t really remember when I took the bait (sorry for the bad pun). Many fads in fiction have come and gone and I tire of them after a while but I’ve never lost my love of this subgenre and, at this late date, I probably never will. I’m always interested to find a new twist, though, and C.K. Crigger has provided quite a few of those twists.

Besides the post-apocalyptic theme, Hereafter also offers time travel, magic, a potential for romance, a quest for truth and, perhaps most intriguing, it’s sort of a western. There are the obvious facts that the story takes place largely in the Northwest and transportation is by horse but it’s more than that. The latter part of the book reminds me very strongly of all the expanding frontier books I used to read—and still have a fondness for—such as the Wagons West series by Dana Fuller Ross in which the reader follows the trail west with the characters. It is this element of a journey through history that intrigues me the most because it takes place in a future time and, yet, takes me back to our earlier times. Ms. Crigger has imagined a way to show us history repeating itself at the same time we see our possible future.

Finding herself in a new world one hundred years after the Event, possibly a scientist-driven catastrophe, Lily is a protagonist I like very much. She’s intelligent and strong, both physically and emotionally, and brave, very brave indeed. That bravery is not only a “macho”, take on the bad guys kind of thing—it really comes to the fore when Lily heads out on her lonely journey to find her own past. Being virtually alone and venturing into a dangerous unknown takes a level of fortitude many don’t have and, for Lily, it’s worse knowing her isolation is not by choice.

Other characters also grabbed my attention because they’re so carefully drawn that they stand out in the crowd, so to speak. Jacob, a 16-year-old with a bit of a crush, and Nate, the man that could potentially be a part of Lily’s life, are very appealing while her naysayers, Neila and Bannion, are completely understandable in their opposition to accepting this strange woman who simply does not fit in.

The last twenty percent of the book is the most gutwrenching in more ways than one and stands out in my mind as a shining example of what a post-apocalyptic novel can become in the right author’s hands. Fear of the unknown and the known as well as intense hope are precisely the emotions one would have in these circumstances and, while the story wraps up nicely and can be considered done, I do hope that Ms. Crigger will tell us more about Lily Turnbow and the people in her new world someday.

One last note—I had an ebook copy to review but, for some reason I can’t explain, I found I really wanted to listen to an audio edition, perhaps because audio gives the listener more of a storytelling effect which is in keeping with a primitive society. Rebecca Cook is an excellent narrator and, for the most part, I found it easy to distinguish between characters plus she handles male voices quite well. I’ll be more than willing to listen to her again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2013.