Book Review of The Living Dead (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, October 13, 2008
The Living Dead is a brand new zombie anthology that features stories from some of the true heavyweights of horror including: Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Joe R. Lansdale, Norman Partidge, Poppy Z. Brite, Clive Barker, Laurell K. Hamilton, Dan Simmons, and Douglas E. Winter. What makes this anthology so refreshing is that these are not the typical “zombie apocalypse” stories that are so common in fiction today. Some do take that direction but the stories are diverse in their themes and settings and they in which thy approach zombies. The stories have been collected from the past thirty years although the majority have been written within the past decade.
One of the most chilling tales is Darrel Schweitzer’s “The Dead Kid” based loosely on the story of a child found dead inside of a box in 1957. The story has a slice of horror Americana to it and its tone will remind you of the film “Stand By Me”. The local town bully has found a dead kid in a box and is keeping it in his fort in the woods. Only this kid isn’t quite dead. The story evokes sadness and anger as the bully and his cronies torture the dead kid without mercy.
“Blossom” by David J. Schow is another unique variance on the zombie theme. His zombie can pass herself off as human but is more black widow than zombie. She’ll literally devour the poor soul that has inviter her to his apartment.
Joe Landsdale once again combines his love of the wild west with zombies in “Deadman’s Road”, another tale of his two-gun toting Reverend Jebidiah. The Reverend decides to help a deputy sheriff escort a prisoner along Deadman’s Road, the supposed haunt of an undead fiend.
One of the best stories dealing with the traditional zombie theme of stragglers trying to survive a zombie apocalypse is David Tallerman’s “Stockholm Syndrome”. Holed up in his well-fortified house, a man watches a well-dressed zombie methodically lead the rest of the undead in an assault on the family who lives in the house across the street. He’s terrified but also fascinated by this new zombie’s ability to problem solve.
King’s “Home Delivery” is pedestrian at best and once again set in his favored locale of Maine. Obsessive compulsive and very pregnant Maddie, still mourning her late husband, is determined to deliver her baby at home, even as the zombie invasion is encroaching.
You get zombies in the early American Frontier and zombie centerfold models in the Caribbean. There is even Michael Swan’s tales “The Dead” where zombies have become a valuable biological resource, serving as Hollywood stuntmen and labor to cleanup nuclear reactor accidents. There are also stories by writers not normally associated with Horror including George R.R. Martin’s classic “Meathouse Man” and “The Song the Zombie Sang” by Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg.
In the hands of so many horror masters, the Living Dead is one of the best zombie anthologies published in recent years.
Mania Grade: A
Book: The Living Dead
Short Stories By: : Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Joe R. Lansdale, Norman Partidge, Poppy Z. Brite, Clive Barker, Laurell K. Hamilton, Dan Simmons, Douglas E. Winter
Publisher: Nightshade Books