Rigor Mortis #1
Reviewed by Dread
John Joseph Adams (Editor)
Shade Books (Sept. 2008)
So before you pick this up, you have to ask yourself what exactly
it is you are expecting from an anthology that calls itself THE LIVING DEAD. Do
you want any and all types of Living Dead? Do you want only a certain kind of
Living Dead? What exactly does the term Living Dead mean to you and
how open are you to interpretation? This friends, is what will determine
whether or not you find this massive compilation a worthy eater of your
eater of your time, or a near to total waste of vital organs. In
all fairness, I must say that when I first heard about this book, I was giddy
as a schoolgirl, and you know how giddy those schoolgirls can get waiting for
their zombie stuff. What I expected was a huge 487+ page anthology featuring
The Living Dead running amok and some high profile writers scripting their
escapades in a post apocalyptic world. Now why, oh why, did I ever forget that
the concept of The Living Dead encompassed so much more than that rather
limited end times profile? I think part of it is PERMUTED PRESS fault,
having just come off a bender, reading every damn copy of their books I could
get my talons on.
PERMUTED specializes in End of the World (EotW) zombie lit. So I
just automatically assumed that THE LIVING DEAD was going to be filled with
EotW stories with only some slight variances in theme. Well, dear readers, how
wrong I was. Theres nothing slight about some of these variances here.
Some are downright blasphemous from a Romero zombie fans perspective (and
this is despite the fact that Romero zombies are revisionist
zombies themselves). A quick glance at the cover and in reading Editor
John Joseph Adams introduction, one would expect that the content of this
book was geared mostly towards apocalypse zombies. Hell, theres quite the
mention of all of these stories being directly influenced by Romero or a
reaction to his films. So Im sitting there thinking sheesh, Im
going to have multiple zombiegasms reading this, break out the paper towels.
Unfortunately, there seems to be more of a reaction to his films in
these stories that goes way off into left field. I mean, Joe Hills piece
is a romance story that takes place on the DAWN OF THE DEAD set between extras
on the films set. Romance. Thats pushing it a bit isnt it?
Still, I give the editor props for boldly undertaking and providing what will
surely have been and continue to be met with a wide variety of opinions pro and
con. This is one of fandoms most rabidly debated niches and we are some
hard-to-please mofos, so anyone daring to put anything out thats
zombie-related should be given a MRE and shotgun for their efforts.
THE LIVING DEAD is a massive collection of mostly
previously published works featuring characters who are in some state of
reanimation. They could even be loosely categorized as mostly or kind of back
from the dead (this will become clearer later). Like the American GODZILLA,
some are zombie tales in name only. Dare I coin a phrase and
borrow from GODZILLA fans, and say, some are ZINOs
(ZOMBIES-IN-NAME-ONLY). Get that? Living Dead here can mean almost
anything not just apocalyptic-zombie-living-dead-survivor tales. Be they
reanimated by way of voodoo, science, virus, or any other means you can
imagine, they are here. However, some stories are so against what I thought
would ever be included, that it seemed they were padding or just adding name
brand value. The time periods span the centuries and there is even an off-earth
story. This book seems to have covered everything for everybody. And that is
its biggest problem. Its all over the place. Judging from the authors
listed on the cover, sure, one would expect a variety, but it doesnt
necessarily yield consistency in the selections.
In the introduction its mentioned that certain obvious
books/sources were avoided. Id have preferred to read (or re-read) those
instead of some of the clunkers in here. In fact, so many of the passed-on
zombie tales are out of print and costly, I know from trying to track them down
to review that it would be a bit of good fortune to have those stories
Theres not all that much flesh eating or survival tales,
which wont go over very well with many of the Romero acolytes that might
pick this up based on the cover. This is probably gonna go down best for horror
fans who want Living Dead things in their diet, but are not picky. It can serve
as a pretty decent introduction to the world of the Living Dead. The rest of
you have been warned. And after you newbies have cut your teeth and broadened
your horizons, pick up a PERMUTED PRESS book or THE WALKING DEAD graphic novel
series and then youll realize that apocalypse zombies are the only
zombies worth reading
hehe. And no, we are not being paid to plug either
publisher (psst publishers, we in fact are very open to this). Its
just the truth after reading through over 30+ graphic novels and novels since
the great panic took hold.
Here are the high and lowlights (*** indicates picks):
***1) THIS YEARS CLASS PICTURE Dan Simmons:
If theres one thing that bugs me,
its the way neo-zombie concepts are explained (i.e. zombies that can
think) and the author feels the need to beat me over the head with
justification for this new direction. Such stories often try too hard to make
their zombies understood avoid the ire of the uber-devoted and bring something
new to the realm of zombie fiction. In THIS YEARS CLASS PICTURE, author
DAN SIMMONS makes no such effort, and leaves it all to subtle, good story
construction and just plain common sense, which is why it works so well. TYCP
is about a teacher, during post -Tribulation, who continues to hold class in
the remains of her old school building with a classroom full of her formerly
living students. She tries throughout to keep the classroom alive, allowing for
recesses, school pictures etc. This is as much a psychological study of one
persons mental health breakdown and upkeep as it is a depiction of
survival in a zombie infested world. The end is wonderfully done, a slow
ratcheting of tension as we watch our heroine defend her undead school kids
from the adult dead who are trying to invade her well-crafted DIY school
fortress that leads to a hold-your-breath conclusion that is strangely
touching. If there was any less of a setup in the narrative, this story would
have simply fallen into a million little pieces and settled into
ridiculousness, but it doesnt. This is one of my favorite zombie tales in
any format. Kudos to ADAMS for including and opening the book with it.
2) SOME ZOMBIE CONTINGENCY PLANS Kelly
In another collection, I would have liked this quirky
story. Its unfair to its author that it was included as theres
basically NO zombie action. The lead, so named Soap has just gotten out of
prison, and has crashed a party. Zombie-In-Name-Only, Folks.
***3) DEATH AND SUFFRAGE Dale Bailey: SPECULATIVE.
ZOMBIES-ROMEROESQUE. MODERN. SOME FLESH EATING.
This is the short
story JOE DANTE adapted into HOMECOMING, the film that was part of the MASTERS
OF HORROR film series on Showtime. I never cared for HOMECOMING, despite its
intended over the top nature and full blown cheese mixed with some obligatory
flesh munching. It just came off kinda stupid. In Dantes take, dead
soldiers come back to vote in the politician of their choice and oust the one
who pretty much put them in their graves. The anti-Bush political leanings in
Dantes version were obvious that it got in the way of the story. He
shouldve left the story as is, since it reads better than it adapts to
film. Im not into political-anythings when it comes to my reading time,
and certainly not when it involves zombies. Well, I can take
messages seamlessly blended, but this is just politics with zombies
mixed in ultimately rather boring unless you ever wondered what would
happen IF the dead could vote (which shouldnt be too hard) and in that
case you should just pick up your national newspaper. I mean the truth is
better than fiction. I didnt find this particularly thrilling, but I know
some of you might dig it.
***4) GHOST DANCE Sherman Alexie: SPECULATIVE ZOMBIES.
Interesting short piece in which the dead Indians
and soldiers whod fought during Custers last stand rise and rampage
in modern day Montana. Normally, historically-based zombie fiction doesnt
do much for me, unless it is tied to the present or has a really compelling
story. This is the first Native American zombie story Ive read, and I
enjoyed its scant few pages.
***5) BLOSSOM David J. Schow: SPECULATIVE ZOMBIES.
Another segue piece in this collection. DAVID
SCHOW spins a nice, tight narrative in a scant 4 pages. Kinda graphic sex,
complete with flower blossoms and a nude woman. Yep, the nude woman eating
flowers was enough to make me want to read it to see what it all had to do with
zombies. Good inclusion, though cant help the feeling this was filler.
***6) THE THIRD DEAD BODY Nina Kiriki Hoffman:
SPECULATIVE. NO FLESH EATING. MODERN. VOODOO ZOMBIE.
What happens when
a hooker returns from the grave to exact revenge upon her murderous trick?
Well, here ya go. I actually really liked this one, though I am still getting
used to stories done in the perspective of the lead zombie. It just had a nice
TWILIGHT ZONE or TALES FROM THE CRYPT kind of feel to it. And despite the
absurdity of the goings on it somehow makes sense within the realm of this
piece. Another, for lack of better phrasing, touching ending. A keeper.
***7) THE DEAD Michael Swanwick: SPECULATIVE. FUTURE. NO
Zombies become commercial in this tale. Corporate zombie
schmucks bring the other zombies into the world as the next big thing to
overtake the work force. In this world its big business in to deal with
the dead as a commodity. An interesting concept that reminded me of FIDO.
***8) THE DEAD KID Darrell Schweitzer: SPECULATIVE.
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL. NO FLESH EATING.
This is kind of like
STAND BY ME if it had a zombie in it. The local school bully and his gang keep
a zombie kid in a box in their hideout. He makes a young boy who wants to join
the group spend the night with the thing as part of an initiation rite. Had a
bit of creep factor to it. As told by the now adult young boy.
9) MALTHUSIANS ZOMBIE Jeffrey Ford: SPECULATIVE.
NO FLESH EATING. MASSIVE ZINO ALERT!
A government project that creates
pseudo zombies by way of brain surgery. So these are not zombies in the Romero
sense. Hell, not even in the viral 28 Days Later sense. These are pretty much
surgical somnambulists of sorts. Not bad on its own, but a terrible choice for
inclusion in this volume. Belongs in a Sci-fi collection.
***10) BEAUTIFUL STUFF Susan Palwick: SPECULATIVE. NO
Another pseudo-political zombie tale. Apparently this was
the result of the authors outrage towards politicians using 9/11 victims
as tools for their propaganda. Without knowing this, its still pretty
obvious. Here resurrections are commonly done (i.e. family can pay to bring
their loved ones back for 24 hours etc, etc.). A group of victims is returned
from death in varying states of decay to appear at a politicians speech.
Its a bit of a humor piece.
11) SEX, DEATH AND STARSHINE Clive Barker: SPECULATIVE.
NO FLESH EATING. POSSIBLE ZINO ALERT!
For those who need to know, this
is the CLIVE BARKER piece of this book. Here, we entrench ourselves into the
world of theater and the myriad of messy characters performing in it. The play
the 12TH HOUR is undergoing its final rehearsals until the appearance of a
strange man who seems to have a vested interest in the production. Lotsa behind
the scenes egos and blowjobs, but no flesh eating zombies. These are the other
Undead - the cousins of the apocalypse zombies, who are more ghosts than flesh
munchers. If any of you have read Barkers SONS OF CELLULOID, this is
reminiscent of the theater theme hed explored there.
***12) STOCKHOLM SYNDROME David Tallerman: APOCALYPSE.
EXCELLENT. FLESH EATING.
A man holed up in a house while zombies
gather in the surrounding area becomes obsessed with and finds familiarity in a
zombie that shows up outside . Billy, as hes named the
zombie, somehow shows better mental skills than the other nearby
undead and begins to use them to attack a family holed up in the house across
the way. This is the tape-recorded transcripts of the survivors
observations. An interesting take on the survivor in a house zombie theme and
an excellent addition to this collection. And, might I add, THANK GAWD, an
apocalypse story I was beginning to wonder if Id even finish this
13) BOBBY CONROY COMES BACK FROM THE DEAD Joe Hill:
MASSIVE ZINO ALERT! ROMANCE.
YES, you read right. This is a romantic
story that takes place on the set of George Romeros DAWN OF THE DEAD.
Now, lets be real clear here. Ive enjoyed a number of JOE
HILLs short stories. The guy can write some creepy, disturbing shit, so
JOE HILL, my props to you. My issue with this piece is its inclusion in this
volume. Its bad enough that I assumed this anthology would be brimming
with end of the world scenarios, but this, this just pisses my inner zombie
fanboy off. He feels so cheated and sullied. This is a love story. A LOVE
STORY!!! AAAAGH!!! SOAP OPERA fans here you go, the rest of you
***14) THOSE WHO SEEK FORGIVENESS Laurell K. Hamilton:
WOW I really enjoyed this story by LAURELL K.
HAMILTON. If I aint gonna get my apocalypse zombies, Ill always
have a place in my unbeating heart for well-done Voodoo zombie tales. This one
doesnt fail to deliver. Here, people can resurrect their loved ones,
associates etc., to close out business and say the unsaid. Its a time and
place where this is legal, and the police and everyone are in on it, so much so
that therere laws dictating how these things happen. Its a
supernatural world where even raising vampires can occur, but is illegal. I
like this place. In this, a woman schedules to resurrect her dead hubby and
during the ceremony things go awry. Its pretty cool, gritty & bloody
with an interesting twist.
***15) IN BEAUTY, LIKE THE NIGHT Norman Partridge:
APOCALYPSE. SOME FLESH EATING. SMART ZOMBIES.
An isolated island
paradise with centerfold zombies. Another yes-you-read-right: CENTERFOLD
ZOMBIES. So the world is ending and holed up in a mansion/fortress of sorts are
the remnant participants of what was going to be a photoshoot for a skin mag. I
found the handling here, by author NORMAN PARTRIDGE, well done enough. There
are smart zombies here, a concept can come off pretty stupid at times and make
one wish long and hard for a moaning Romero shambler. I was waiting to see how
this was gonna be handled and was pleased with the reasons behind their
awareness. That is, until the last scene on the beach which was kinda stupid,
but I wont give it away. Other than that, I did like PARTIDGES
rationale, people died, turned, and had their humanity intact until
their first trigger and then the zombie nature would finally surface.
Dont consider this a spoiler, since without knowing this, some of you
might just give up at the point that the first zombie appears and talks and
miss out on an otherwise decent tale. I almost did.
16) PRAIRIE Brian Evenson: HISTORICAL. FLESH EATING.
OK, now this was a difficult read. Written as journal entries, an
accounting of a trek through/towards a prairie, it is done in some 16th century
English...err...or somethingthink Shakespeare or close. Now, maybe this
clashes with my PhD in Ebonics or Im just not worldly enough to jump
right into such a stylistic switch, but this was pretty jarring. I think it was
about the church making some journey across a zombie-infested landscape, saving
and killing as many people as they could, while trying to stay alive. Well,
thats what I am remembering, but I was so distracted by the writing
style. I really wanted to get through this as quickly as possible. Mercifully,
it was only a few pages long. Interesting idea and I did like the whole funky
gothic, inquisition thing going on and it certainly added more variety.
However, I just found this a distracting piece that I wouldve preferred
to have read it in another collection or at another time.
17) EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH ZOMBIES Hannah Wolf Bowen:
MASSIVE ZINO ALERT!
And so this piece goes: Zombies kill people. If I
were a zombie how would I know? You dont have to run from a
things go better with zombies
you get the picture. Of course,
it would have been nice if this story came with a zombie or two. But I guess it
is about zombies, but not exactly in the way Id had in mind. Another case
of, I woulda rather read this elsewhere since its a cute little piece,
really. Here, its disappointing in that WTF kind of way. Maybe good for
the uber casual zombie fan, but for gut munching, please, move along folks,
nothing to see here.
***18) HOME DELIVERY Stephen King: APOCALYPSE.
SPECULATIVE. FLESH EATING.
After the last two stories, I was once
again nearly ready to give up on this anthology. THANK GAWD, STEPHEN KING was
put in at this point. Im not a big KING fan, but I do mostly like what
Ive read. This take has zombies caused by some creepy space worm things
or some such; they dont take up much story time. In usual KING fashion he
crafts an engaging story in an isolated town awaiting the arrival of these worm
things to take up space in their local cemeterys occupants. The
protagonist is a young woman left widowed just as all the shit is about to go
and shes pregnant. Its pretty grisly at times and despite
the worm things, has a definite zombie vibe going if one were using the
official Romero-meter. Worked for me and I definitely enjoyed this more than I
did his novel THE CELL. Yea, I just went there.
19) LESS THAN ZOMBIE Douglas E. Winters: APOCALYPSE.
A bunch of methed out club kids out club hopping. They
end up at some underground club that plays what amounts to some type of zombie
snuff film (for lack of a better term). The best thing in this piece was how
damn spot on the tweeky narrative was to being high on crystal or any other
yammer inducing drug. Damn fabulous. My mouth started getting watery just
reading this thing. However, as far as full on zombie action, well, Ill
leave that up to you. Im not sure if whats contained counts as
zombie action, though there is a zombie in it...err...kind of....on a film that
they watch...does that count?
***20) SPARKS FLY UPWARD Lisa Morton: APOCALYPSE. FLESH
Lisa Morton delivers a satisfying tale here. This is the first
political zombie story that I flat out liked- because it didnt beat me
over the head, well, not really that hard at least. Here, zombied, abortion
activists return to the clinic they knew and loathed in life. Well-executed,
interesting idea told in journal form that borrows from the
zombies-returning-to-the-shopping-mall-theme. If youve read DAY BY DAY
ARMAGEDDON, you will see the obvious parallel in story structure. So many
people rave about DBDAs journal entries concept as being a clever switch
in zombie fiction, however, it is this story that I think the journal idea
flows best in terms of believability. It makes sense that the protagonist can
write down whats happening around her given whatever situation is at
hand. In DBDA, it seems at times silly that the protag would have time, let
alone think to write half the stuff down in a book the way he did. Here, our
protag is on her way to have an abortion in a post-apocalyptic world. This is
her and her survivor comrades life up to and after the journey to the
clinic on the outskirts of their safe haven. It should satisfy many of you
Romero traditionalists out there. Thanks to ADAMS for throwing us a bone here.
Please,a Master, may we have another?
21) MEATHOUSE MAN George R. R. Martin: SCIENCE FICTION.
SPECULATIVE. ZINO ALERT!
This is more a full on science fiction story
than a sci-fi/horror hybrid that most zombie works seem to be. Here, synth
brains get implanted into corpses to make workers and sex slaves (MEATHOUSE is
the place they keep the corpse-girl-meat) on some planet, star, whatever called
SKRAKKY. These are zombies in the mindless-drone-controlled-by-someone-else
vein. I got about halfway and skipped to the next story. Sorry, I mean, I was
working with the variety-of-stories idea and with respect to author GEORGE R.
R. MARTIN, this just felt all wrong for what Id expected in this book. I
do hafta give props to MARTIN who goes there by opening the story with a
full-on, graphic corpse/meat fucking scene that Im sure pissed off a
number of female readers when it was first published that took some
balls (no pun intended). NEXT.
22) DEADMAN'S ROAD- Joe R. Lansdale: ZINO. WESTERN.
Oddly enough, author Lansdale is credited as having created noted works of
zombie fiction in his intro. It is strange then, that here, with DEADMAN'S
ROAD, Editor Adams has chosen from him a tale that is not particularly zombie.
It's actually more a supernatural-ghostly-creature-thing in the Wild West kind
of yarn. I was immediately reminded of the Manga comic PRIEST, and the undead
gun totin' Unholy Man and the Supernatural, truly WILD West terrain he
traverses. These almost seem like brothers in vibe (and I've enjoyed that Manga
when I could find it, BTW). If not for this similarity, I likely would've saved
this tale for some rainy day since I don't care much for Westerns, even if
steeped in horror. Here, a wandering Reverend comes upon a lonely cabin looking
for a night's stay. Also there are the cabin owner, a town's Deputy and the
prisoner he's escorting back to the Gallows. The lone Deputy asks the Rev for
the accompaniment of his extra guns back to his town. They find out the
quickest way, and the only way the Rev will spare time to go back, is up
Deadman's Road, a place inhabited by some supernatural creature, once human.
This is the tale. No doubt, this is a well constructed piece. Suitable chills,
and yes, I enjoyed it. But zombie tale? I think not. Felt more like CANDYMAN in
the West or something. I know it's stated that Lansdale's other work has been
reprinted, but having not read those works, I bet I'd rather have seen those
than this kinda sorta zombie-ish yarn. An effective, recommended HORROR read.
But keep on moving for true zombie action.
***23) SKULL FACED BOY David Barr Kirtley: APOCALYPSE
ZOMBIES. FLESH EATERS.
Zombies form groups and take over the world. I
first listened to this tale as a podcast on Pseudopod (downloadable from iTunes
for free). Not bad. Romero adherents will scream bloody murder and have LAND OF
THE DEAD flashbacks. This is geared more for the crowd who digs THE RISING and
MONSTER ISLAND type of zombies (i.e. talking, organized, strategizing zombies).
This late in the book, Ill take anything that even suggests theres
a world ending and zombies taking over. Hell, they could tap dance and whistle
Dixie before eating their victims for all I care. Just bring on the apocalypse,
dammit. Here, a kid gets into a terrible accident with his buddy. It just so
happens that the world itself is ending and everything dead is coming back to
life. They both quickly realize that they are part of this new uprising. Now
that was a nice idea. The guys, now dead, go their sepearate ways. One returns
home to find his family holed up with other survivors. The other, so named the
Skull Faced Boy due to his injuries begins to form a zombie army. I enjoyed
this more in book form, though the audio was serviceable. I still have a tough
time with the zombies-form-an-army-to-fight-the-living concept but itll
***24) THE AGE OF SORROW Nancy Kilpatrick: APOCALYPSE
Five years following an outbreak, a woman survives on one of
the last places on earth to fall, New Zealand. This is an interesting study of
solitude, and refreshingly, from a female perspective. Overall its pretty
enjoyable and well-done. The depiction of loneliness and despair is convincing
and you dont realize how male-dominated zombie lit is until you read a
piece like this. A keeper. Pretty good addition to this tome.
25) BITTER GROUNDS Neil Gaiman: VOODOO ZOMBIES.
OK, someones gonna slap me. I am not familiar with Neil Gaimans
work. I am familiar with his name and that he is hotshit as far as authors go.
However, the story was kind of a bore. A man takes another mans identity,
who just happens to be doing a paper on the Haitian Zombie Coffee Girls. The
guy whos doing the paper disappears and our protagonist takes his place
at some convention down in New Orleans where he was going to present his paper.
The atmosphere was good but overall, still a tiresome affair. Another case of
***26) SHES TAKING HER TITS TO THE GRAVE Catherine
Cheek: VOODOO ZOMBIE.
How can you not love a story with a title like
this? A trophy wife returns from the grave and embarks on a journey of sorts to
find out who brought her back. Tongue-in-slowly-rotting-cheek, and yet
touching. Its an interesting blend of the gruesome and silly. Were
along for the ride as we watch poor Melanie falling apart literally. Its
all rather sad as she plods along realizing her body aint what it used to
be and the reactions to her new found looks are for all the wrong reasons. I
really enjoyed this one.
***27) DEAD LIKE ME Adam-Troy Castro: APOCALYPSE
A very good psyche piece. What happens when you are a
survivor who decides the best way to manage one of these inconvenient zombie
outbreaks is to become one yourself? Well, not one as in dead, but to act and
look like one? An interesting concept and portrayal of one mans slow
decline into madness. A pretty harsh tale. Another good EotW addition with a
28) ZORA AND THE ZOMBIE Andy Duncan: VOODOO ZOMBIES.
This was lush, well-told and interesting. But as a zombie tale, it was
a chore and a bore to get through. Pass!
***29) CALCUTTA, LORD OF NERVES Poppy Z. Brite:
This was one of my favorite tales in this book. It
made wading through some of the last few clunkers worthwhile. Id heard
much about Poppy Z. Brite from a friend who was already a fan of her work. This
was my introduction. An outbreak happens and in India the living population
lives side-by-side with the zombies
kind of. The whole idea sounds a bit
silly, but this tale is done quite well. The Third World grime of Calcutta
feels tangible and nasty, especially if youve been to such a place. I
couldnt help but think that if I am to endure zombie stories where
theres a new spin, then this is how Id like to read them. CALCUTTA
LORD OF NERVES makes you feel like you are there in the midst of the whole
stinking mess. Be ready, because youll want to wash afterwards. Visceral.
I enjoyed this addition very much.
30) FOLLOWED Will McIntosh: SPECULATIVE ZOMBIES.
Here, bad people (read: rich people, etc.) have zombies follow them
around. The more bad things that you do, the more zombies you get to follow
you. A man finally gets his first zombie and isnt quite sure why.
Heres his tale. An interesting idea, though rather silly. I kinda liked
it and kinda didnt. It reminded me of the voting zombie idea where
its a fresh take on zombies, but Im not sure what I think of it now
that Ive read it.
31) THE SONG THE ZOMBIE SANG Harlan Ellison and Robert
Silverberg: SPECULATIVE ZOMBIES.
I have always wanted to read a Harlan
Ellison tale. Now I have. As a zombie tale, this was another one of those that
was interesting if it wasnt part of a Living Dead compendium. I would
have enjoyed this much more as part of a science fiction anthology, which is
where it really belongs. Here, it just adds to the batch of yawners and
32) PASSION PLAY Nancy Holder: PSEUDO-APOCALYPSE
The Plague has subsided and here, the church decides to
substitute a zombie for Jesus. I mean, you can actually hammer nails into its
hands right? Perfect for crucifying. Well, god aint feeling none of this
even if the play is for him. More bad church leaders get their comeuppance. Too
bad life doesnt imitate art. Plague or not, and even though this was OK,
Ill still say pass.
***33) ALMOST THE LAST STORY BY ALMOST THE LAST MAN
Scott Edelman: APOCALYPSE ZOMBIES. FLESH EATERS.
Its the end of
the world and zombies are loose. The narrator happens to be an author who keeps
time by writing yarns about how it all ends, how he ends and so this story
starts and stops and starts and stops. And so it goes. This was an interesting
idea, though kind of annoying after about the 3rd story, but this
is unavoidable if the main protag spends his time writing these stories as part
of our story. Didja get all this? I couldnt help but think that the real
author had a whole bunch of Post-It notes lying around with ideas scrawled on
them, and this is what he came up with to use them all. Kinda cool, kinda
clunky. Still, I enjoyed it for the most part.
***34) HOW THE DAY RUNS DOWN John Langan: APOCALYPSE.
Yes, you read right this is a PLAY that closes out the
book. Well, its written as a play or script. Im not sure what I
think of this format after reading normal stories for 456 pages
previous then suddenly BAM! First of all, it took about three or four tries to
even get into this piece simply because, anyone reading a
script/play/screenplay etc., can tell you, it aint exactly the smoothest
reading. There are stage directions and the usual script details that totally
distract from a smooth reading experience. Plays are not meant to be read for
enjoyment unless youre a performer, industry type or literary masochist.
For us regular folks, it can be as enjoyable & easy to read as an
electronics manual. If this was put out as a play I would definitely go see it,
but as reading material, its weakness is the distracting format. In it, we are
Hosted by the Stage Manager. From a tombstone propped stage, he
leads us through a number of survivor tales tied to the tombstones. The theater
is cued to light up in various places with action, sounds, lights etc., as the
tales proceed. Theres even a mob of zombies crowding the aisles of the
theater at one point as part of the performance. Its this area that the
story is most painful to read as we are described how certain points will light
up in the theater over by a certain audience section and over at another point
this will happen, and from over there, that will happen. Its jarring and
takes away from otherwise excellent survivor tales contained. As is, think if
WORLD WAR Z were a stage play, it might look a little bit like this. After
reading all the other stuff, this format kinda hit me like a brick. But I did
eventually like it and you might too if you dont care about or can get
past the format.
CONCLUSION: For the price, I cannot say that THE LIVING
DEAD isnt worth it. This will be a bonanza for some of you at this price.
Others will feel like they just picked up one of those 50 movies for 20 bucks
DVD tins at Wal-Mart. About half of the content was enjoyable. Just because I
wasnt in the mood for a bunch of these, I cannot shred this book, since
theres a friggin wide array of styles and authors that I at least
got introduced to for better or worse. I can understand the need to mix the
stories up as this kept readers in the dark about what was coming next.
Unfortunately, that worked against it and made what should have been an
orgasmic read kind of like bad sex.
Also, if I knew I wasnt going to review this book, I quite
frankly, would have given up on this at the halfway point. To Editor Adams, I
hope if theres a next time, you focus your Dead offerings with more
consistency. You obviously have access to some good stuff that was left out. A
Volume 2 would be most welcome, but perhaps you could separate theme and
styles. We dont all like just any ol kind of Living Dead. I would
rather have jumped straight to the Apocalypse Section and read the
other pieces at my leisure (and loved you for this option) than endured the
near torture of some of the stories while reading sequentially.
With this review, I hope you Romero fans will see what you are
getting into if that style is all you want. For anyone else who isnt as
obsessed by the desire for apocalypse, do give this a try. You will stay busy
for quite awhile exploring the works here. It gives the reader an expanded view
of what the Living Dead as a subject could encompass. THE LIVING DEAD seems to
be the definitive anthology on all things reanimated at this point and for that
I give Adams high marks. It is an impressive collection, if flawed, but it is
worth a look for anyone wishing to explore the possibilities of the Undead as a