21st Century Dead. Book Review

1316709621ST CENTURY DEAD edited by Christopher golden

Platkus, p/b, 400pp, £7.99

Reviewed by Stewart Horn

Looking at the gruesome cover of this book and the phrase a zombie anthology, I didn’t expect much more than a fast, fun read requiring little intellectual effort.  So when I read Mark Morris’s opener Biters, about teenage girls looking after baby zombies, the high quality writing, depth of characterisation and emotional impact caught me completely unawares.

Next came a short and effective just so story from Chelsea Cain, then Orson Scott Card’s astonishing Carousel, which poses the question – if the dead aren’t really dead, are the living really alive?

The standard remains high throughout the book, with the best stories using zombies as a way of talking about human beings, and how we interact and treat each other.  The book is at its best when the dead are metaphors, rather than monsters.

There are several approaches to the material, from fairly light-hearted to brutal, or thoughtful, and styles from fable through straight horror to post-apocalyptic sci-fi.  Some I liked more than others but there is no rubbish in this book

Despite all of that, the anthology as a whole became repetitive, and I soon grew bored with the zombie theme.  I was especially disappointed with Jonathan Maberry’s Jack and Jill, a touching and well-told story of a boy dealing with terminal cancer, living in a town under threat of storm and flood.  The characters and relationships are great and the situation is dramatically perfect, with the boy’s internal world and the danger from the elements mirroring each other.  Then the zombies came and started munching people and ruined everything.

Overall, a book full of great stories, but one to dip into.  It’s hard to digest so many zombies in one sitting.