by Michael D. Pederson
The Dead Walk!
edited by Vincent Sneed
Die Monster Die! Books, 229 pp.
Ever since George Romero first showed us that zombies could be more than mere shambling corpses—that they are, in fact, a malleable metaphor that can be twisted to reflect different aspects of society—we’ve seen that they can be scary, silly, funny and socially relevant. Die Monster Die! Books’ The Dead Walk! brings us ten new zombie stories that cover the wide range of subject matter that we’ve come to expect from the walking dead. Shockingly, I only found one of the stories not to my liking and of the remaining nine tales I’d judge four or five of them to be instant classics. “The Dead Bear Witness” by James Chambers comes the closest to a Romero-style zombie tale. Set in a prison it injects a unique point of view where (much like Day of the Dead) the zombies are less important than how the people deal with them. Chambers is also represented by the somewhat humorous, often insightful, and downright creepy “Ressurection House.” C.J. Henderson has two stories here as well, one of which, “Crime and Authority,” closes the book on a nicely cynical note. The most daring story though (possibly the boldest and most intriguing story I’ve read in a while) is Robert M. Price’s “The Righteous Rise.” Telling the Resurrection as a zombie story could have gone wrong a million different ways but Price’s take on it is both intelligent and classy without treading into blatant sacrilege. Not only is this book a must-own for the hard core zombie fans but I’d go so far as to say that it may be the new definitive zombie collection.
by Michael D. Pederson
No Longer Dreams: An Anthology of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction
edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Lee Hillman, Jeff Lyman
Lite Circle Books; 256 pp.
How best to judge an anthology? Is it as bad as its worst story or as good as its best? If I were to stick to those extremes then this is either a 256-page piece of kindling or one of the best anthologies of the year. (Which of those do you think they’ll quote for their website?) Like everything else though the truth falls somewhere in the middle.
This is an odd bunch of stories. Danielle Ackley-McPhail runs an online writers group and that’s where most of the stories originally came from. Needless to say, it’s a rather uneven collection—there are a few stories that should have had another draft or two before ever seeing the light of day—but there are enough quality stories to make it a worthwhile purchase. Heck, the three (!) stories from John C. Wright are reason enough to go out and buy it. Wright’s got a beautifully clear style that reminds me some of Niven’s best short fiction. Other highlights include humorous bits like Darrell Schweitzer’s “Kvetchula” and C.J. Henderson’s “Wezleski to the Rescue” (originally printed in Nth Degree)—whining vampires and wacky scientists, respectively; Steve Johnson’s brilliantly clever H.P. Lovecraft-meets-E.E. “Doc” Smith pastiche, “The Doom That Came To Necropolis”; the tense science fiction culture clash of James Chambers’ “Law of the Kuzzi” and the beautiful historical fantasy “The Poppet” from L. Jagi Lamplighter. So, for a small-press anthology, this is a fun collection with a little something for everyone.