30 August 2010

The New Dead - A Zombie Anthology Edited by Christopher Golden

  • Author: Christopher Golden (Editor)
  • Title: The New Dead - A Zombie Anthology (AKA Zombie!)
  • Publisher: St Martins Press Feb 2010
  • ISBN: 978 0312559717 (Trade Paperback)
I'm quite a fan of anthologies in general, but most especially of themed anthologies of new short fiction. I love getting a hold of a book with a bunch of brand new stories, which means I can read it cover to cover without worrying about rereading something. (I really hate it when you get half way through a story and it turns out that you've read it before and you just remembered the ending...) And this book is one of the best that I have gotten in a long while.

The New Dead is an original fiction anthology edited by Christopher Golden. You may know him from his billions of media tie-in novels (hate hate hate) for Buffy, Angel, etc. People who know me will know how much I hate the media tie-in industry, which leeches valuable reading time and shelf space from original genre fiction and makes the mainstream think that all 'genre' writers have to offer is stuff about fucking television. So usually, I wouldn't have much time for Christopher Golden, or his books. And for this, I apologise.

Golden has put together a fantastic spread of stories about 'The Living Dead,' covering aspects from the sentient dead, to the killer dead, to voodoo, to military research to the doomsday apocalypse story, and not a single one disappoints. New fiction by Max Brooks from his World War Z universe, Joe Hill, Joe R. Landsdale (author of the novella "Bubba Ho-Tep") and the always brilliant Kelley Armstrong feature alongside work of lesser known but equally skilled Horror writers, some of whom are just starting out as writers. It's a fairly good indicator that the near future of Horror fiction is in safe hands.

Only one thing bothers me about this collection. At least two of the stories are in another Zombie book that I bought a few days after I read this one, and that book was published in 2009. So maybe not so all original as the cover claims? I'm not to sure what happened there, but it did bug me a bit. Either way, it's disappointing that two different publishers/editors have used the same stories in the two most recent anthologies of Zombie stories, meaning that 70 odd pages could have been used for some other up and coming Horror writer. Like me, for instance....haha, I kid.

After the jump, there is a list of the stories, along with spoilers, which will ruin your life and probably mine as well. Or something. Fuck, I don't know. I write this shit for myself, not you!! It's not all about you, you know...
The Stories!!!:
  • Lazarus - John Connolly: Right off the bat, a twisted take on the bible story in which Lazarus is raised from the dead by Jesus, but discovers that his lack of knowledge about the afterlife, and his odour, make him extremely unpopular. Thanks very fucking much, Jesus. (I always said that Jesus was an asshole.)
  • What Maisie Knew - David Liss: Possibly the most fucked up story in the book. In the future, people will sell their bodies to a company which will reanimate them for domestic purposes. OMG, he totally just did that. I can't believe he just did that. I bet she smells funny too. Sick fucking bastard. That's all I'm gonna say.
  • Copper - Stephen R. Bissette: A sad and kinda spooky story about veterans of war, the loss of community, and what happens when military people stick together. I never though I would cheer for the Zombies...
  • In the Dust - Tim Lebbon: A classic 'Zombie Plague' story, including a military cordon, a grieving husband, a scared and slightly unstable woman, an angry and rebellious teenager, military scientists with god complexes and an almost happy ending. Despite the apparently cliched plot, this story works really well. And Lebbon is well aware that a subsonic rifle round will cause a small entry wound, and the explode the brain out through a gaping hole in the back.
  • Life Sentence - Kelley Armstrong: This is one of my favourite stories in this book. A corporate powerhouse from a long line of powerful sorcerers finds out that he is going to die, and sets about trying to find a way to become an immortal Zombie, since becoming a vampire is too unreliable and difficult. Through his assistant, who despite her generous paycheck is actually held to him by an unspoken threat over her daughters life, he sets about locating any scientist who can provide the means for his desired immortality. He arranges the murder of a whole bunch of people as experimental subjects in the process of researching his aims, and finally is preparing for the final conversion. His assistant is not comfortable with all of the killing. He is concerned that she may be having doubts about resurrecting him once he has died, so abducts her daughter as a final safeguard, but everything goes to plan. He releases the daughter and goes to rest and finish off with those inconvenient things, like rigor mortis, initial putrefication, fluid loss, and so on, in a specially prepared room deep in the basement of his building. But his assistant did the preparing.... Just an awesome story. And  I just spoiled it for you. It wasn't spoiled for me, so I spent the whole thing waiting for the end. Ha! Brilliant.
  • Delice - Holly Newstein: A straight up Haiti voodoo revenge story, with a happy ending and liberal use of colloquial French and the names 'Papa Legba' and 'Erzulie.' A cat dies, which was a bit sad, but the rest of it was great. No surprises though.
  • The Wind Cries Mary - Brian Keene: A guy tells the story of his wife's death of the zombie plague, and how she returns to where he is every night. But he can't reach out to her, can't talk to her corpse, can't even attempt to put her to final rest. He talks about how different they were. He's a Republican and she's a Democrat, he loved Pulp Fiction, she hated it. But they made it work. When she died, he blew his head off with a shotgun, and now he's a ghost. Can they make it work now? Short and sweet, a bit sad, and a clever look at relationships where the differences seem overwhelming.
  • Family Business - Jonathan Maberry: I take it back, this is the best story in this book. A teenager who lives with his older brother in a township of survivors from the Zombie Apocalypse becomes too old for the free rations for children program and must now get a job. He tries everything available rather that sign on with his brother, a Zombie hunter who he hates, largely because when they were small children, the older brother ran away from their parents with the baby rather than attempt to save their mother. That's right, a 15 year old blames his 20 year old brother for not saving their mother from their father on the first night of the Apocalypse. What follows will really make you think. A really fantastic story that completely surprised me.
  • The Zombie Who Fell From The Sky - M.B. Homler: A mad scientist cooks up a super soldier formula, infects himself with it, and in the process of trying to escape the military who want him dead, falls from a plane into a small town, starting the Zombie Apocalypse. Hilariously told zomcom, it would make a great movie.
  • My Dolly - Derek Nikitas: A pretty good Zombie Apocalypse story in which a guy attempts to resurrect a girl he found so that he can ask her what it's like to be dead. Well written, if not a brilliant plot.
  • Second Wind - Mike Carey: A greedy, maniacal stockbroker decides that since he's probably going to die of a stress induced heart attack, he might as well prepare so that his body is as intact as possible so that he can keep working from his newly constructed fortress. A clever story in which a total asshole discovers human kindness, but only once he has died.
  • Closure, Limited: A Story of World War Z - Max Brooks: If you haven't read World War Z, or The Zombie Survival Guide, get them and read them. THEN read this story. It's brilliant, mentions cricket and makes no sense until the final paragraph. I totally love Max Brooks.
  • Among Us - Aimee Bender: Cute series of thoughts and hints about a Zombie Apocalypse, which never becomes clear, and finishes with the saddest thing I ever read in my life. Really good.
  • Ghost Trap - Rick Hautala: A diver makes a creepy find, and later learns about the last time the dead rose. Quite a good story. I've never come across Rick Hautala before, but apparently he has published 30 novels. I will have to look him up.
  • The Storm Door - Tad Williams: I've never been a fan of Tad Williams, but this story it pretty good. I was slightly disappointed with the ending though. Ha, and I like the hero's name, "Nate Nightingale, Exorcist to the Stars!!"
  • Kids and Their Toys - James A. Moore: I never did trust children that much.
  • Shooting Pool - Joe R. Landsdale: Typically brilliant Landsdale, a crime caper story with a gross-out bit, some funny bits and very little connection to Zombies. Someone was reaching with this one I think...
  • Weaponized - David Wellington: A report witnesses the first deployment of the latest weapon in the continuing  War on Everything, the Post Mortem Combatant. Clever and fun.
  • Twittering From The Circus Of The Dead - Joe Hill: This story begins with the official definition of what Twitter is, direct from Twitter.com. @tyme2waste tweets her way through a family holiday in hell, but finally they are coming back to California from Colorado. Mom is such a bitch, Dad is just being weird, and little brother is a total masturbating pervert. OMG, Dad is pulling off the road to stop at some stupid circus. And so on, written and laid out like a twitter timeline. Clever device, and the ending it totally appropriate. I don't see this device working again though.
So there you have it. A whole bunch of Zombie stories and not a single instance of the word BRAAIIINNNNZZZZZZ!!!

I love my life.