Before Twitter, I got my book recommendations from the awesome people at my favorite book store and library. Now I get them from people all across the world and it’s incredible because I discover books I never would have otherwise. One of those books, “After,” by John Prescott, caught my eye because I have a special place in my heart for dystopian/post-apocalyptic/nuclear fiction.
The story begins with a short chapter in the third person. It introduces the main character as a boy and drops a nuclear bomb (literally) in one page. The next chapter jumps ahead to a scene with the main character in the desert feeling paranoid and reluctant to leave a shelter he’s finally just found. It’s been fifty years since the bombing. He’s on the move and there’s the vaguest sense he’s looking for something before Prescott explains what’s happened.
Without giving too much away: the chapters remain relatively short and fast-paced throughout the story, much to my delight. Prescott bobs and weaves through flashbacks and the main character’s present like an expert. The dialogue is clean and believable. I’m usually ejected from the narrative a few times in a story because the dialogue sounds unrealistic but I felt the opposite with “After.” The dialogue and the flow of the story enhanced the characters and sold their emotions.
Speaking of their emotions… wow. Prescott is not afraid to throw curve balls and hard times on his hero. Although he isn’t a perfect “reluctant hero” archetype he’s pretty close, and by the end of the story he takes on an important role after being a relatively obscure nobody to begin with. I bonded with him in his quest to make sense of a totally new reality with new rules.
Prescott stays true to the genre and there are strokes of similarity in the sense of isolation but also of hope in stories like “The Road,” by Cormac McCarthy. I felt the same sense of dread and fear for Alex as I did for Neville in “I Am Legend,” by Richard Matheson. Overall I thought the story held up well to its peers. The ending was satisfying, albeit disappointing because it meant I’d have to wait to find out Alex’s fate.
One of the biggest strengths in the writing was the texture. I thought every scene, every piece of dialogue zinged. Alex jumped off the page and seemed like a real person. I felt myself experiencing his fear, anger, and desperation. Stories this polished and crisp tend to captivate me and keep me reading and this was no exception. I finished After in one long afternoon and my reaction was literally, “Woah, that was a doozy,” largely because there other than the addictive prose, there were some really unique ideas/terrors I’ve never read in a story before and I won’t give those away – you’ll have to read it!
Prescott is a storyteller with an ability to bring complex characters to life and still move the plot forward without dawdling. Alex is layered and likable.
This is a solid 4.5 out of 5.
About the Author:
Born in Vermont in 1981, John Prescott now lives with his wife and two children in a small southern town in Iowa. He works as an Auto Detailer during the day and writes at night. He released his first book, “After”, March 22, 2017. He hopes to develop his writing into a career.
Website & Buy Links: https://www.fatmopzoo.com/