What could be more enjoyable than a Zombie story anthology? How about enjoying one during and after Hurricane Ike, with no power and candlelight?? How about one that includes three of my all-time fav authors (Dan Simmons, George R. R. Martin and Stephen King)? How about one nearly 500 pages long (at least the ARC is)? How about one edited by John Joseph Adams, who also brought us the anthologies Seeds of Change and Wastelands (which, yes, I need to finish).
Many of these stories have been previously published, but almost all were new to me. One obvious component: sex angles and zombies seem to mix. Not all include that perspective, but this is certainly not PG-13.
My favorites from this LARGE collection were Ghost Dance by Sherman Alexie, The Third Dead Body by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Malthusian's Zombie by Jeffrey Ford, Home Delivery by Stephen King, Deadman's Road by Joe R. Lansdale, The Song the Zombie Sang by Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg.
This review originally appeared on duskbeforethedawn.net.Thoughts on each story:
* This Year's Class Picture by Dan Simmons: the author of the Hyperion series plus the Illiad/Olympus duology tells the tale of Ms. Geiss, teacher extraordinaire, continuing to teach her class and recruit new students even though they and most of the rest in the city are dead and zombies. The repetition of the lessons and Ms. Geiss persistence are well told.
* Some Zombie Contingency Plans by Kelly Link: interestingly written and well paced story of Soap the ex-con with a painting, who always has a contingency plan against zombies and several other possibilities; the ending threw me (re-read the final paragraph until my eyes hurt), but the journey to the end was enjoyable, as Soap crashes Carly's party and cons her.
* Death and Suffrage by Dale Bailey; zombies dig their way out to vote, based on a presidential campaign manager's repressed memories being brought to the fore after a little girl's accidental shooting. If only the dead would vote this November...
* Ghost Dance by Sherman Alexie; one of my favorites, though I wish it were longer. Custer's army arises from the dead, drawn by murdered Indian blood, and an FBI agent named Edgar (not Mulder) has visions of their lives and the damage/murder that they do.
* Blossom by David J. Schow; okey-dokey! A little kinky sex gone awry turns a beautiful girl into a dead girl and then into a man-eating zombie. Descriptive, to say the least!
* The Third Dead Body by Nina Kiriki Hoffman; a zombie story from the zombie's point of view; a murdered hooker, cursed by her voodoo grandma, must love the man that killed her and rises from the grave to find him. Very well written and entertaining.
* The Dead by Michael Swanwick; the third zombie + sex story in a row, interesting grouping, Mr. Adams. The business side of using cheap zombies for everything - factory workers, stunt doubles...and, yes, as call girls/guys. Good character work in this story.
* The Dead Kid by Darrell Schweitzer; school age bullies who keep `the dead kid' in their forest fort put one young man through a right of passage; should he abuse the zombie dead kid like the other gang members or save him?
* Malthusian's Zombie by Jeffrey Ford; Mr. Ford bases this on a book by Julian Jaynes (which I actually have in my possession, and have always thought it would be a great basis for a story). A well written slight of hand, featuring mind programming that turned soldiers to zombies in a secret government project, following the theories of Dr. Jaynes.
* Beautiful Stuff by Susan Palwick; a 9/11-ish story about what the dead would say to the living about revenge and death. Nicely done.
* Sex, Death and Starshine by Clive Barker; the upcoming death of a theater motivates it's dead patrons and stars to gather for one last performance and viewing, taking some of the living with them;
* Stockholm Syndrome by David Tallerman; surviving human gets sympathetic with a semi-intelligent zombie who reminds him of his dead son...even though the zombie is trying to break into other humans houses.
* Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead by Joe Hill; two former lovers, one now married, on the set of Dawn of the Dead as extras. No real zombies, just remembrances of how things used to be and wishful thinking of how things could have been.
* Those Who Seek Forgiveness by Laurell K. Hamilton; I enjoyed the first few Anita Blake novels, before they became overly porno. This story hearkens back to her early work, where she deftly describes Anita the animator, the woman doing a job that she is bound to do, explaining zombies and how they work to the living and raising the dead.
* In Beauty, Like the Night by Norman Partridge; hmmm...a porn mag star on an island where he'd planned to weather any disaster with his centerfold girls turns into...you guess it...night of the living porn queen.
* Prairie by Brian Evenson; a poetically written parable of exploration in the new world, but instead of indians we find the walking dead;
* Everything Is Better with Zombies by Hannah Wolf Bowen; an enjoyable tale of high school kids, imagining zombies at every grave of their small town cemetery, to take their minds off of their other problems.
* Home Delivery by Stephen King; a excellent tale from the master, an isolated Maine (of course) island community, that bands together when a zombie plague from space attacks the rest of the world. The characterization and back story are indicative of King's other great works.
* Less Than Zombie by Douglas E. Winter; from the intro, this is a mod of another story by Bret Easton Ellis, a tale of people in LA, getting high, and believing if they kill their friends in gruesome ways, they will come back as zombies. Not one of my favs of the collection.
* Sparks Fly Upward by Lisa Morton; the politics of over population and abortion in an isolated colony after a zombie outbreak told from the diary of the mother. An unique zombie story for this and any other collection, and exceptionally well written.
* Meathouse Man by George R. R. Martin; a sad short story by one of my favorite authors, featuring a young man who can run corpses to do multiple jobs, but all he wants his to find his true love. His search takes him to many jobs, many worlds, and to the meathouse, where corpses respond to his needs. A sad tale, but as always well paced with a well brought out leading character.
* Deadman's Road by Joe R. Lansdale; a Texas western zombie tale, with the resolute Reverend Jebidiah Rains, part gunslinger, part warrior of God, always fighter of evil. He helps a deputy escort a prisoner down Deadman's Road, in search of an evil zombie who was a killer and bully when alive.
* The Skull-Faced Boy by David Barr Kirtley; superbly written from the point of view of an intelligent zombie (his brain wasn't eaten) who has to decide if he is on the side of the living (his father) or the dead (his friend). The zombies organize behind the intelligent zombies!
* The Age of Sorrow by Nancy Kilpatrick; instead of being the last man on earth, what about being the last woman on earth? well-imagined, nicely written, a sad downward spiral, as one would realistically expect.
* Bitter Grounds by Neil Gaiman; a fantasy of drifting, where the people that you meet you are supposed to meet, leading you on a path to voodoo lovers and zombie powder taking a professor's place at a conference in New Orleans.
* She's Taking Her Tits to the Grave by Catherine Cheek; a lively tale of a blonde L.A. barbie, called back from the dead but she doesn't know who did it. She stumbles from lover to husband trying to find out who, decaying all the way (except for the silicone).
* Dead Like Me by Adam by Troy Castro; if you want to live amidst a zombie plague, pretend to be dead. A somewhat lackluster self-help manual.
* Zora and the Zombie by Andy Duncan; voodoo and zombies in Haiti around Roosevelt's time. Zora seeks to solve the puzzle of Felicia, a woman found after she was thought dead 30 years, and of the voodoo gods that surround Haiti. The same coffee girls as in Gaiman's story are mentioned here as well!.
* Calcutta, Lord of Nerves by Poppy Z. Brite; "It seemed to me that the dead were among the best-fed citizens of Calcutta." A great line from a lyrically written tour through Calcutta after the zombies came. The goddess Kali worshiped by the living and the dead.
* Followed by Will McIntosh; corpses follow around the well off, or people who have used or invested in something that causes other people to suffer. One of the shortest, but sweet.
* The Song the Zombie Sang by Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg; one of the best of the bunch. A skilled musician kept animated after his death to perform, his music technically accurate but not passionate, encounters a live equal as a musician who sees through his charade and pain.
* Passion Play by Nancy Holder; we've been to Oberammerau and seen the Passionspielhaus. I haven't seen the play but the way Ms. Holder describes the event of having zombies in the play portraying Christ crucified on the cross is outstanding. The play has been done since the time of the plague....the plague returns when the zombies are treated inhumanely, even though given the sacrement from a sympathetic priest. Well done.
* Almost the Last Story by Almost the Last Man by Scott Edelman; stories of a writer locked in a library as the world around him deteriorates overrun by zombies.
* How the Day Runs Down by John Langan; the "Our Town" Stage Manager narrates the zombie invasion of the town, and shoots a few zombies of his own. Explanation, characters with stories, a well written parallel.