Afterlife: Ghostland 2.0 - by Duncan Ralston - book review.

Cover art by Ascending Storm

Afterlife picks up six months from events that transpired in the first Ghostland novel. Ben and Lillian are now working with the political group GRP2, or Ghosts Are People Too, and are trying to free Ghosts or ‘ethereals’ to use their preferred nomenclature, from their hauntings. Mostly, the reason for doing this is purely altruistic, as the group seeks to free these spirits from the endless and often traumatic, haunting cycle, or loop, that they are trapped within. Ben, however, has other plans as he seeks to recruit an army for the war he knows is coming. A war headed by deceased writer Rex Garrote whom Ben still firmly believes is seeking to unleash an army of ghosts upon the world, with Rex himself aiming to become the ruler of this new ghost-world.

Lillian has discovered new abilities since the events at Ghostland, as she finds she is now able to see and speak to ethereals.

Although the spirits of Ghostland are still supposedly trapped within, held in place by the recurrence field (think of it as a barrier that ghosts can’t pass through) that surrounds the place, a recent string of psychics being murdered in a manner that suggests they are being possessed, hints that perhaps something other than Ben and Lillian escaped.

Searching for answers regarding these deaths are a bunch of new characters, including detective Sam Beadle, daughter of Stan Beadle, the retired detective who had aided Ben and Lillian during their escape from the cursed theme park.

Now, I must admit that when I started reading Afterlife, I had forgotten quite a bit of what had occurred in the first book - of which you can find my review here. Not that I hadn’t enjoyed the first book, or that it wasn’t memorable, just that I read it back in November of 2019, and since then, I have read quite a lot of other titles, and my poor old brain can only retain so much information. In fact, I did consider re-reading Ghostland as a refresher, before instead deciding to simply dive straight into Afterlife. And you know what? That time between my reading of the two titles didn’t matter at all. As I read, my memory slowly started to return, vague puzzle pieces forming and fitting into place as I progressed. Sure, there were a few blank spots here and there, but it didn’t take me long at all to fall back into the story. There’s no ‘previously on’ happening here, no constant flashbacks to past events or wasted exposition for those who either can’t remember or, for some reason, are starting with the second title. There is only the continuation of the story, and boy, what a story it is too.

As much as I enjoyed Ghostland, as I sat reading Afterlife I found myself thinking, ‘I don’t remember Ghostland being this good.’ Don’t get me wrong, I liked the first book, but something about Afterlife just clicked with me, and I found myself completely absorbed in the events and characters. Loose ends from the first novel are tied up, new characters are introduced and old characters are expanded on in a way that feels realistic and believable. Even characters that weren’t particularly integral to Ghostland, such as the families of Ben and Lillian, become fleshed out in such a way as to make what appear to be side characters become fully rounded creations with their own lives and issues.

Sure, I will need to re-read Ghostland to tell which of the two books I enjoyed the most, but that is something that will wait until I have the complete trilogy.

Afterlife is a slower burn than Ghostland, and a larger book too. Ghostland runs at just under 400 pages, with Afterlife clocking a little over the 550 mark. There’s a lot of book to read, but none of that page count feels wasted. Sure, the tone is different, and where Ghostland was the Jurrasic Park/World story of theme park attractions running amok and slaughtering the guests, Afterlife is the build-up to an upcoming apocalypse.

For me, the analogy for Afterlife would be that of a stick of dynamite with a long fuse that has been lit. You know the dynamite is going to explode, but the length of the fuse means that you have a bit of time before the actual explosion. Well, you think you do, except what was a softly glowing fuse suddenly flares up, sparking and hissing, burning that much faster before settling down again. If that wasn’t bad enough, you realise that unbeknown to the person who planted the dynamite, they’ve placed it on a gas main and, when it does inevitably blow, it is going to be far more catastrophic than they could ever have envisioned.

Afterlife is a title that I highly recommend you read, although obviously, I suggest you pick up Ghostland first to get the full story, well, the first two parts anyway.

That’s my only real complaint - waiting for the third part. I want to find out what happens next, not only to the likes of Ben and Lillian, but also what Garrote and his minions are going to do once they are unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, and will the beings from within the dark rift also break through?

When part three is released, I will be there, clicking that pre-order button and waiting to see what Duncan has in store for the final instalment.

You can find the book at amazon UK

And at amazon US