“Zombies: More Recent Dead,” edited by Paula Guran, is yet another anthology of short stories featuring the walking dead. While it features a few excellent stories, a lot of the stories are random musings on life, the universe and everything, with a zombie or two thrown in for flavor. While a short story anthology can usually get away with a few stories that aren’t quite related to the subject at hand, at some point the balance gets disrupted.
This is just a guess, but the editor might have deliberately picked quantity over quality in this anthology. What could have been an excellent, average-length anthology ended up being a cumbersome refuge of anything and everything that claimed to be zombie-related.
“The Afflicted” by Matthew Johnson: when the zombie virus affects the elderly the most, one badass nurse chooses to protect, heal and occasionally kill them in their FEMA camp. An interesting story with a lot of human element.
“Dead Song” by Jay Wilburn: something I’ve never seen before – a story about the evolution of music in the post-zombie world. Dark and fascinating, told in the documentary style.
“Iphigenia in Aulis” by Mike Carey: this seemingly innocuous story about a little girl who goes to school in a guarded compound gradually gets darker and darker. Told from the girl’s point of view, it’s one of my favorites in the anthology.
“Pollution” by Don Webb: an in-depth look into the economics of zombie ownership, through the eyes of a fairly stupid American guy who lives in (and is obsessed with) Japan.
“Becca at the End of the World” by Shira Lipkin: a very in-depth and personal look at the biggest trope of zombie fiction, where a relative gets bitten and something should be done.
“The Naturalist” by Naureen F. McHugh: once the zombie threat is under control, Cleveland becomes a penitentiary. One of the condemned prisoners turns into a zombie naturalist. A dark and interesting story.
“Selected Sources for the Babylonian Plague of the Dead (572-571 BCE)” by Alex Dally Macfarlane: a cheap “World War Z” knockoff.
“What Maisie Knew” by David Liss: in a world where corpses can be turned into subservient zombies, a drunk driver is trying to silence his victim.
“Rocket Man” by Stephen Graham Jones: a bunch of children play baseball (with their zombie classmate) and act stupid to impress the lifeguard lady.
“The Day the Music Died” by Joe McKinney: what do you do when the rockstar you work for turns into a zombie? Lock him, feed him groupies and make money off his unreleased material, of course! Dark, twisted and morbidly funny.
“The Children’s Hour” by Marge Simon: a very short and not very creative poem that doesn’t rhyme and has no rhythm.
“Delice” by Holly Newstein: a story that collects every stereotype you can think of. Zombie priestess? Check. New Orleans voodoo? Check. Horribly abused slaves? Check. Justice from beyond the grave? Check. I ended up speed-reading through this one…
“Trail of the dead” by Joanne Anderton: a short but intriguing story about an accidental Necromancer that’s stalked by a Necromancer Hunter and his reluctant assistant.
“The Death and Life of Bob” by William Jablonsky: what if a regular person from a regular office came back to life and decided to go back to work? A fun and slightly bitter story, that’s what.
“Stemming the Tide” by Simon Strantzas: in a post-zombie world, a misanthrope and his girlfriend take a trip to watch a zombie tide.
“Those Beneath the Bog” by Jacques L. Condor (Maka Tai Meh): a bunch of hermits (Native Americans?) hang out together, cook some deer, tell each other’s fortunes… This is one of the longer stories in the anthology and I stopped reading 1/3 of the way through. There might be zombies at some point in this glacially slow story, but it’s hard to tell.
“What Still Abides” by Marie Brennan: an interesting short story told in ye Olde English style about a zombie problem in the feudal Europe.
“Jack and Jill” by Jonathan Maberry: a young boy with cancer and a deathwish waits for a giant storm to arrive, but that’s not the only disaster he’ll experience… A sad and well-written story.
“In the Dreamtime of Lady Resurrection” by Caitlin R Kiernan: a mad scientist gently kills his girlfriend and brings her back to life to learn what’s on the other side. An unusual take on zombies, to say the least, and filled with purple prose.
“Rigormarole” by Michael A. Arnzen: a poem about a mad scientist’s unorthodox solution to the zombie problem. Fairly short and clever.
“Kitty’s Zombie New Year” by Carrie Vaughn: the hostess of a paranormal radio talk show encounters a zombie during a New Year’s Eve party. A very pragmatic take on zombies that avoids the genre’s usual tropes.
“The Gravedigger of Konstan Spring” by Genevieve Valentine: a fun and slow-paced short story about a town where water can make you immortal, and what it means to be a gravedigger in a place where no one really dies.
“Chew” by Tamsyn Muir: a disturbing story about a murdered woman coming back to life, told from the perspective of a young German boy right after WW2.
“‘Til Death Do Us Part” by Shaun Jeffrey: a surreal and creepy story about a man and his young son reintegrating their zombie wife/mother into their lives.
“There Is No “E” in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You or We” by Roxane Gay: all is fair in love and war – a woman in Haiti uses the zombie powder to get a lover.
“What Once we Feared (A Forest of Hands and Teeth Story)” by Carrie Ryan: a first-person narrative from a teenager who hid from zombies in a skyscraper’s penthouse with his four friends. Gritty, realistic and very well written.
“The Harrowers” by Eric Gregory: an amazing story that combines zombies, noir and just a little bit of cyberpunk (zombie cyborg bears!). A guide is tasked with helping a young man find his lost father outside the city walls, but nothing is as it seems… One of my favorites from this collection.
“Resurgam” by Lisa Mannetti: a story within a story about medical students stealing dead bodies (for science!) and the dead bodies coming back to life.
“I Waltzed with a Zombie” by Ron Goulart: a cute and occasionally funny story about a hack Hollywood writer in 1942, written in the style of that era.
“Aftermath” by Joy Kennedy-O’Neill: an unusual zombie story in that the infected eventually got cured. A former English professor describes the post-zombie world and provides increasingly disturbing flashbacks to her past. One of the best stories in the anthology, in my opinion – it reads just like something from “World War Z.”
“A Shepherd of the Valley” by Maggie Slater: a profoundly sad story about a religious hermit who lives in an airport with his 11 exoskeleton-controlled zombies, and a teenage girl that walks into his life. Reminded me of the video game “The Last of Us.”
“The Day the Saucers Came” by Neil Gaiman: a quirky little poem about the day the world changed.
“Love, Resurrected” by Cat Rambo: a necromancer’s undead girlfriend, who also happens to be a brilliant tactician, looks back at her life and tries to catch a remarkably talented warlord. A brilliant short story.
“Present” by Nicole Kornher-Stace: a high school student and her baby flee from zombies. Disturbing, to say the least, with some meta humor about zombies and horror stories.
“The Hunt: Before, and the Aftermath” by Joe R. Lansdale: a middle-aged couple goes on a zombie safari to save their marriage. A typical narrative of a cheating man, only with zombies in the backdrop.
“Bit Rot” by Charles Stross: a truly unusual take on the zombie genre, featuring insane irradiated androids on a spaceship. Excellent concept and execution.
Score: 3 stars
Disclaimer: I received my copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Link to the Amazon page