Autumn by David MoodyBy David Moody (Thomas Dunne Books; 2010)

About this zombie thriller, an early effort by HATER’S supremely talented David Moody, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that it fully evinces the strong, unpretentious prose of Moody’s more recent efforts, and also their headlong narrative drive. The bad news is that unlike HATER and its sequel DOG BLOOD, AUTUMN never really succeeds in distinguishing itself from the countless other media that share its frankly hackneyed concept.

The setting is England in the wake of a contagion that kills 99 percent of the population. Moody wastes no time getting to the action, with maintenance man Carl, computer worker Michael and teacher Emma joining up with a small band of survivors at a community center. Before any of them can get a handle on what’s happening or what course of action they should take, the dead begin rising–and anyone even slightly familiar with zombie lore knows that the undead are after just one thing: human flesh!

Growing increasingly restless in their community center confinement, our heroes decide to head for less populated areas. Not that this improves matters very much, because as you might guess the tensions between our three sympathetic but all-too-human protagonists are as combustible in their way as the zombie problem.

To his credit, Moody doesn’t waste a lot of time on the expected love triangle (the protagonists’ main concern is survival, which leaves little time for romance). That’s not to say, unfortunately, that the proceedings are in any way difficult to predict. In fact, I found an episode toward the end of the book, set in the home of a survivor who babbles about taking care of his mother, very difficult not to foresee beat by beat.

In Moody’s defense, this novel was initially published (on the internet) several years ago, when the zombie apocalypse tale probably didn’t seem as tired as it does now. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that AUTUMN is essentially SHAUN OF THE DEAD without the comedy–or the imagination.