When NASA scientists detect intense solar activity, the warnings go unheeded. Soon communications fail, power goes out, and the world’s technological infrastructure collapses.
But the solar radiation has also inflicted an unpredictable change–a disruption in the impulses of the human brain. Billions die. And they are the lucky ones…
After: First Light is part of a horror series of books that, as a series, focus on events unravelling in a post-apocalyptic world written by Scott Nicholson. Chronologically it is the first book in the series though it was actually released 4th out of the current 6 available books.
It was given away by the author for free in eBook format and is a short prequel to the rest of the series. The author has made it very clear that it is not necessary to read this book first in order to understand the series. He has also said that it is not actually necessary to read it at all but is available should you wish to. As you will have guessed, I chose to read it (and first) as a taster to see if I would want to continue with the rest of the series.
The story itself is set in a world where everything is relatively normal other than there are some disturbing solar disruptions happening with the sun. You are first introduced to a few NASA scientists, one of who have discovered the irregular solar activity, as they work a late shift monitoring activity. As the solar flare becomes worrying, one scientist attempts to escalate the issue to his superiors but meets resistance although as the situation worsens, it becomes apparent that there is not really anything that can be done anyway. Whether they like it or not, there is going to be a situation and the effects of it are believed to mean a massive worldwide loss of all power. There would be planes falling out of the sky, supply chains would collapse and rioting would ensue as people return to their base instincts of survival for a few weeks until everything went back to normal. Unfortunately they had no idea what was really going to happen.
As the story continues, it introduces other characters chapter by chapter. We meet a young religious girl called Rachel who has suffered an unknown tragedy with her younger sister and is now, to make amends, attempting to help another young girl suffering difficulty.
We meet a survival nut called Franklin who is busy building himself a self-sufficient compound in the middle of a woods were he can avoid the prying eyes of the government. We also find out he is the Uncle of the previously introduced Rachel.
Back to the scientists who are now in a meeting trying to argue with Chiefs of Staff regarding the need to do something when out of nowhere, one of the men launches himself across a table and tries to pummel one of the scientists into the ground. It takes more than 6 strong men to hold the man down as he appears possessed by some primal rage. Although they didn’t know it then, this would be “patient 0” in the unknown effects from the solar flare.
We head back to Rachel who we learn has poor music taste but good taste in books as we are told she lies back on a sofa with a Stephen King novel while listening to Death Cab for Cutie. News bulletins are advising everyone that while dangerous, there should be no panic regarding the solar flare and that everyone should just wait it out inside.
More characters are introduced such as a police man who is following a suspicious character through an alley who, when ordered to stop, brutally attacks the officer leaving him dead on the street. We return to the scientists where one is viciously ending the life of the other. We meet a young man called Campbell who checks on his roommate and finds him lying dead in his room and we finally visit Rachel again who is being chased by another would be attacker with crazed eyes and as she runs for her life, the story ends and Book 1 begins.
All in all, this short prequel builds up a nice feeling of everything turning to hell. The solar flare has obviously done more than just wipe out electrical grids and appears to have also affected the electrical messages being sent around our brains killing most, not affecting a small few and turning the rest into savage killers.
This is only short but as a prequel, it made me want to carry on reading so I instantly downloaded the next book and started it. I found the story interesting but mildly predictable. The characters are mostly interesting though I really didn’t care for the scientists at all. Franklin and Rachel are particularly strong characters and the author has done well to give them such depth in such a short story.
With it being a short prequel, there isn’t a huge amount of horror though all of the deaths are detailed in gruesome detail and there are a few, always horrible, effected children. It has a genuine “The Stand” feel to it at times with the character introduction and death, one after the other as the world falls apart but only through the eyes of a few.
I found it to be an enjoyable short story with real promise and thoroughly look forward to what else is to come. I must also admit that I do worry that it will struggle as it feels like I can already predict where the story is going. I hope I am wrong and it surprises me.
After: First Light (Scott Nicholson)