Reviewed by Mike Chinn
Death, bereavement, what happens after we die â€¦ these are all things that occupy a significant proportion of human thought. Of all the animals, we seem the ones most obsessed with life, death and the afterlife â€“ creating planet-wide religions that revolve around little else. And Horror is, of all literary genres, most concerned with death; and living death; and un-deathâ€¦
This anthology â€“ Hersham Horrorâ€™s first step into publishing â€“ is unashamedly about the one little thing most certain in life (apart from taxes). Sixteen tales, each with its own take on the big sleep: how it can be outwitted, how it affects the living, how it affects the departed. And a satisfying collection it is too, on the whole.
Stephen Bacon, Steven Savile & Steve Lockley, Adrian Chamberlin, Gary McMahon and Stuart Young all contribute wildly different tales which have at their core a common theme: the death of children. Dave Jeffreyâ€™s tale is a gorily amusing zombie short â€“ owing much to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Mark West supplies a camping trip that all goes horribly wrong. Zach Blackâ€™s drug and alcohol wasted protagonist finds a way to belong at last. RJ Gaulding gives us a hard-drinking, noirish private investigator in a story that throws a fresh surprise every couple of pages. Jan Edwards revisits that old favourite: a deal with death. Katherine Tomlinson goes for zombies of a cruise liner. Ian Woodhead looks at how the haves and have-nots fare during a zombie plague. Stuart Hughes has the long-dead haunting the dreams of the living. Stuart Neildâ€™s two computer nerds dig up more than they can handle in true EC Comics style. Richard Farren Barber delivers an ambiguous tale of a DJ barricaded against another zombie plague â€¦ maybe. And Johnny Mains gives us a typically Pan Book of Horror style account of revenge and possession.
Not a bad one amongst them â€“ though I found Baconâ€™s, McMahonâ€™s and Youngâ€™s the most affecting. Pity they were all at the start of the book and not spaced out more evenly. Mine is a proof copy, so I imagine the occasional typo and dodgy bit of layout was fixed before launch. And Iâ€™m also hoping the strange practise of having the bylines in huge block type that dwarves the tiny, italicised story title is also fixed. Itâ€™s so wrong. Small niggles aside, this is a satisfying book from a new small publisher. I look forward to their next title, Alt-Zombie.