Before and After Kindle Edition
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★★★★★ "This is a fun and gripping read. Robinson Crusoe meets I am Legend." Stephen Cummins
★★★★★ "I don't get chance to read too many books and normally start one and forget about it after a chapter but I just couldn't put Before and After down." Ben Gallon
★★★★★ "I devoured this serving in two sittings, it was very moreish. I'd sum it up in three, three letter words: bod, dog, God." John Walsh
★★★★★ "The characters are the kind that stay with you and you just want to read more about their lives, which I'm hoping will happen at some point (After and...After?!)" Emma Jones
★★★★ "Bonkers and brilliant like Douglas Adams meets Charlie Brooker! Not for the faint-hearted, but very enjoyable for those who can stomach it (pun intended). And all for the price of a Bacon Double Cheeseburger." Welsh Bookworm
★★★★★ "Shanahan does an amazing job of making you fall in love with this unlikely hero and hits you with twists you won't expect or forget!" Yo.
★★★★★ "Definitely worth being brave as a reader and seeing what you make of this fantastic novel for yourself." Leah H
★★★★ "I've just passed it on to my book club to read as I need to talk about it with someone else! It's the kind of book that you can't shake out of your head!" Victoria Cook
★★★★★ "The first page hooked me in and then I could put it down." Dean
★★★★★ "Warning - made me miss my tube stop!" Seamus Hilley
From the Author
This is the first line of Before and After, see what you think...
The fireman who falls to his death is Carl, and the one who kicks him out of the window is Karl.
Want more? Use the Look Inside feature to read the first few pages, or download a sample.
- Publication date : January 10, 2020
- File size : 388 KB
- Print length : 196 pages
- Publisher : Andrew Shanahan (January 10, 2020)
- Word Wise : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B082XFC63T
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #185,707 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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All of the things Ben was going through were things that made me think and opened my eyes to different situations. I am not sure if he would have really survived the medical situation but I do know people who have gone through it albeit in a hospital setting. This is a good book to read and a crazy ride, drone wise, McGyver wise and internal wise.
This is the story of Ben Stone, a 600-pound man who hasn’t left his 4th floor flat in nine years. The world changes drastically one day with a twist on the zombie apocalypse, and he is trapped in his flat with his little dog, Brown. He must use his own wits and resources to solve a long list of end-of-the-world problems for his very survival. Not written for the faint of heart, it had me squirming and writhing through a key event in the book. This story is original, well-written, and presents the challenges of being super obese (I had no idea). Highly and enthusiastically recommended!
"Beautiful" is not a word often used in connection with rage-fueled undead or DIY leg amputation, but I use it because Shanahan writes with such vivid, gentle clarity. The novel's structure of interleaved time periods builds interest, but is not difficult to follow. Its characters are few, but they are deeply believable. The protagonist's religious belief is the biggest surprise of all: touching, profound and fuel for thought even to an agnostic reader. And of course there are action and danger— but on a refreshingly human scale, not your typical "save the world" bombast.
"Before and After" is NOT just for people who are totally into the zombie genre (a fad which, by the way, the COVID situation seems to have put a damper on). It's for anyone who'd like to see how a simply structured, straight-ahead horror tale can be made complex and memorable.
Top reviews from other countries
It sounds like a crazy setup for a book - but it actually provides a platform for a very clever sideways take on the survival story.
Like Tom Hanks trapped on his desert island in Castaway, our hero, Ben Stone, has to find ways to keep him - and his adorable dog - alive and well, despite limited food, water and...a lot of weird stuff outside his flat. Cue various hilarious scenes where Ben manages to scrabble together just enough technical ingenuity to save his skin. Plus one *very* gruesome scene which has you wincing and belly-laughing in equal measure.
In parallel with all this fun stuff, there is also the very human story of Ben’s life leading up to this point: a surprisingly touching rumination on what leads a man to fear the world and hide away in his home and fall prey to addiction.
It’s ultimately an uplifting story: Ben finds inner hope and strength of character...but he still needs to deal with the scary stuff outside his flat.
I was immediately drawn into the events in the story. You’re soon rooting for the main character and the smart parallel time-line structure keeps the narrative zipping along. I really enjoyed the balance of funny set-pieces and heartfelt backstory. All in all a really fun and compelling read with some genuinely moving moments.
The protagonist is Ben Stone, a young man so agoraphobic that he only really sees the outside world from the balcony of his high-rise Housing Association flat, works entirely from home selling package trips to Disney resorts, and sends his dog for walks by drone. He is also a compulsive binge-eater and has reached a weight at which his mobility and health are severely affected - we're talking about the kind of life-threatening, disabling size that sees people featured on sensationalist documentaries and unable to lead a fully functional and independent life.
At the beginning of the story, a terrified Ben is waiting to be transferred to hospital, which because of his weight requires the assistance of specialist equipment and a fire crew, in order to have his leg amputated. But as he waits, it seems that some sort of national emergency is taking place outside. It soon becomes clear that Ben is about to experience the end of the world ... while strapped to a reinforced stretcher and unable to move.
The rest of the book is the story of Ben's survival, which is interspersed with flashbacks to his childhood, his relationship with his late mother and his gradual weight gain. The survival narrative is pretty much the stuff of a horror novel and as such, it's not terribly convincing (I don't for one second believe that a real-life version of Ben would have survived for more than a month) but it is entertaining, despite the elements that stretched my suspension of disbelief just that bit too far, and it's frequently very funny.
It helps that Ben is so utterly likeable. He's kind, gentle and clever and highly self-aware, so it's just impossible not to root for him. I appreciated the fact that at no point does he come across as lazy or greedy - he's simply a sensitive, lonely young man with a seemingly incurable addiction to eating.
I also liked the flashback sections, which are often quite moving. Ben's relationship with his mother is touching but not stifling, even when you get the impression she may inadvertently kill him with kindness. The bullying he endures and the clearly inappropriate ways in which various people try to make him lose weight - he's sent to humiliating diet classes that are quite obviously only going to make things worse - strongly suggest to me that if Ben had just been left alone as a fat teenager, he'd have carried on enjoying playing rugby as a larger man and would probably not have continued to gain weight.
For the most part, we're invited to sympathise with Ben and to understand his addiction, which makes a pleasant change from the way extremely fat characters are usually portrayed. However, the uncomfortable physical realities of his size and consequent limited mobility are talked about in frank detail and his appearance is only ever really addressed in terms of his own and other people's disgust. I found this somewhat dehumanising, at odds with the tone of the rest of the book. Although Ben is certainly an extreme case - to the extent that most of us will never actually encounter anyone his size face to face - the message here is very much that all fat is repulsive and grotesque, and Ben's journey, while presented as being mostly a positive one for him, really just diverts him from one eating disorder to another. I was uncomfortable with that message.
All things considered, however, I enjoyed Before and After overall - it's a quick, gruesome and very funny read, and comes across a bit like a weird cross between 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead and My 600-lb Life. Plus, the main character is very likeable and, his mental and physical health issues aside, occupies a world that feels easily recognisable even when the events described are completely implausible.
Ben Stone is a gloriously interesting character. Not because a vegan with type 2 diabetes is an unusual choice of protagonist, or even that most of his story is set in a fourth floor council flat, but for his utterly brilliant performance on this quirky apocalyptic stage.
The challenges facing someone of Ben’s extreme size pose countless opportunities for life or death to thrive in this open season of ‘viral hostility’. Yet he launches a volley of unexpected surprises from beginning to end and addresses this new reality with candid observations and practical solutions ranging from hilarious to inspiring.
Only someone with Ben’s extensive personal experience of the world can survive the end of it by continuing to shut it out. Well, that, and maybe a little help from a dog with no bark, some innovative Lego use, the Princess Leah Buns, his mother’s Ghandi-esque wisdom, and a packet of limited edition Bourbon biscuits.
Priceless scenes include those involving the priest [especially the communion wafer], ‘Pinata’ Karl [and his many, many obscenities] and 100% anything featuring Brown [the dog]. Although a short, yet deeply poignant, epitaph provided a beautiful flourish to an already perfectly composed book.
(Wee bit incredulous that drones can transmit images wirelessly considering every other service is down, but still a cracking read!)
Some of the plot was pretty unlikely of course but highly amusing. The book is snappily writen. I deduct one star because I would have liked more about what actually happened in the outside world.