I think I can speak for my entire generation saying that we all love LeVar Burton. From Trekkies to Reading Rainbow and even now with LeVar Reads, the man has been a literary and sci-fi presence longer than I’ve been alive
Last year, Burton recorded and narrated Aftermath on audio for the first time. He added a politically charged Forward/Author’s Note on the state of America and the commentary that truth is often “stranger than fiction”. His debut novel published back in 1997 and it’s a little ironic how accurate he was in predicting how 2019 would look.
That said, I’m agreeing with the GoodReads rating that lives around 3.37/5 for the book. It was a solid debut but his political commentary shut me off before the book even started. I find that blatant political statements shut me off these days when I’m turning to fiction for escapism, although he raises many good points. Aftermath has many cool and interesting parts, it struggled in places too, and as always Burton is an amazing narrator.
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: Aftermath
- Series: n/a
- Author: LeVar Burton
- Publisher & Release: Aspect, January 1997
- Length: 288 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of speculative fiction, light scifi, post holocaust/apocalypse type reads
Audio: approx 10 hours, narrated by the author, from Hachette Audio, 2921
Here’s the synopsis:
The acclaimed actor’s shockingly prescient novel of speculative fiction “presents a near-future United States torn apart by civil war and deep racial strife” (Tampa Bay Times). For the first time ever, available as an audiobook read by the author.
America today is teetering on the edge of the alarming vision presented in LeVar Burton’s debut novel, written more than two decades ago….
In 2012, the first African American president is assassinated by a White extremist – just four days after he is elected. The horrific tragedy leads to riots, financial collapse, and ultimately, a full-on civil war. In its aftermath, millions are left homeless as famine and disease spread throughout the country.
But from Chicago, a mysterious voice cries out….
To Leon Crane, a former NASA scientist now struggling to survive on the streets, the pleas he hears remind him of the wife he could not save – and offer him a chance at redemption.
To Jacob Fire Cloud, a revered Lakota medicine man, the voice is a sign that the White Buffalo Woman has returned to unite all the races in peace and prosperity.
And to little Amy Ladue, the cries are those of her mother, who disappeared during the devastating St. Louis earthquake – and who must still be alive.
These three strangers will be drawn together to rescue someone they have never met, a woman who holds the key to a new future for humanity – one remarkably brimming with hope.
I do think it’s interesting that they a new synopsis for the audio, which is the one I included. So yeah, you can tell that there’s quite a bit going on in the book. There’s a timeline at first that introduces how events came to be, and America is in the *Aftermath*
But then there’s also a completely separate plot line where a scientist is captured and the book turns more post-apocalyptic as the other characters are traveling to rescue her. I feel like he had two separate ideas and try to impose the scientific invention for curing disease storyline into a separate speculative fiction background
It mostly works too. The storyline itself was fast paced but felt a lot longer than 288 pages.
Burton’s writing is where it really fell flat for me, and it was hard to gauge exactly how devastated America and the world was. There are tent cities and extreme poverty and rationed electricity in some areas, but then Disney World is still open? There are high tech scientific inventions coming out of a supposedly broke and corrupt world where the banks are shut down but people are still rich? If you don’t think too hard it’s a good read but I was trying to parcel out exactly how devastated the world really was. He also made a good point of saying how the farms vs the rich vs those already in poverty would handle the changes …. I just had a hard time with the Disney World and other incongruous things. Disney would take an entire city’s electricity ration!
Another thing with the writing – and he did this frequently – would be to say something like “there were two choices, right or left. The right side was blocked, which meant she had to turn left.” Not a direct quote but it drove me nuts when he over explained simple choices and events like that.
I did like the historical events created for the book though, the timeline made sense.
Moving towards the end of the book, Burton changed gears and took on some real post apocalyptic type elements of horror, which fit but vastly changed the tone of the book. He also likened a grain silo to a giant p*nis which stuck out like a … I don’t know, a giant p*nis from the rest of his descriptive language.
To end on a positive note – the characters were pretty standard but all pretty likeable, I wanted them all to succeed. They rotated chapters in different points of view and Burton kept each narrative voice distinct and age appropriate. I liked Jacob the most, the old Sioux was surprisingly both the comic relief and springboard for the epilogue and story going forward.
Overall – definitely I have mixed feelings on this one. I would recommend more for fans of speculative fiction than Sci-Fi readers. My biggest takeaway is that for being written in 1997 – Burton had a hell of a vision of the future.