Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CBR Book#26: The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams

"This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, and not with a whimper, but with the bleak gusto of a low-budget horror movie" - John Langan

Adams has collected thirty-four short stories that all begin with the idea of zombies in our midst. Some of the stories bring the zombies to the forefront, some keep them in the background, shrouded in more mystery than usual. Some of the stories speak from the viewpoint of the zombie and one doesn't even involve real zombies.

My favorite of the short stories is the one that closes the collection, "How the Day Runs Down" by John Langan. Langan thought it would be interesting to take the Thornton Wilder play "Our Town" and infest it with zombies. The product of this concoction is an emotional study of the toll the eaters take on not just the population of a town, but its psyche. This short story could have gone wrong in several ways, but Langan is able to make it seem effortless and inevitable that this pairing should come to be.

Another favorite is the parody of "Less Than Zero", titled "Less Than Zombie" and written by Douglas E. Winter. The writing style makes you feel like you're moving at the same speed as the sex and drug addicted kids in the story, which I would assume was the style of the original author. The kids have sex, do drugs, drive around town, drink, have sex, drive some more, and then end up at a club where they witness zombies being tortured. As a sort of finale to their night, their indifference to life and to each other, fueled by the drugs and drinking, lead them to commit a heinous act that had me wincing in pain.

Other fantastic stories are "Followed" by Will McIntosh, "She's Taking Her Tits to the Grave" by Catherine Cheek, "Malthusian's Zombie" by Jeffrey Ford, and "Passion Play" by Nancy Holder. This is not to say that other stories weren't enjoyable, but these were among my favorites. I also enjoyed Neil Gaiman's contribution, as it was my first brush with his writing. Other stories were less than fulfilling until the end. One in particular I just didn't like.

The one that I didn't enjoy was the offering from Poppy Z. Brite called "Calcutta, Lord of Nerves". I don't think it was so much the story as it was the writing in some places and the overuse of a specific word and imagery that reeked of shock value. Other than that, I found that the stories were all well-written and well-executed. I would suggest picking up this collection to fans of the zombie genre.

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