The Book of the Dead Edited by Jared Shurin. Book review

bookofthedeadTHE BOOK OF THE DEAD edited by Jared Shurin,

Jurassic London, 362 p, Kindle £4.99, pb £9.99

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

As far as I’m aware there are two Books of the Dead, one concerning the Tibetans, the other Egyptian and full of mystery as well as thousands of years old. So what better way to celebrate the almost forgotten horror character of the mummy than to have an anthology dedicated to it? I suppose it is harder to create stories about the mummy that aren’t as cliché to include the standard amount of Egyptian history, but given that many horror readers are more interested in reading about vampires, ghosts, werewolves and zombies it doesn’t say much for this most overlooked horror movie icon of all time. Like vampires and zombies, the mummy is an undead former Pharaoh or queen who doesn’t have an identity of his own; wrapped in bandages, the mummy is a gaunt figure out for revenge for a wrong committed against it in years past.

The Book of the Dead is an anthology of nineteen stories of differing styles, settings and time periods. With illustrations by Garen Ewing and introduced by John J. Johnston it has stories from Molly Tanzer, Sarah Newton, Lou Morgan, Jenni Hill, Den Patrick, Roger Luckhurst, Glenn Mehn, Jonathan Green, Will Hill and Thomas Moore among many. These authors should guarantee a decent enough read for those who think it’s been too long since we’ve heard from the mummy. Small press publishers can produce some of the most engaging anthologies and Jurassic London has had success with their last, the Lowest Heaven which struck a chord with several horror readers. As the mummy is essentially a faceless assassin, it would be hard to give the mummy a personality, to look beyond the bandages, but I think this group of authors have managed it with their own take on the mummy most of us remember from the 1940’s movies starring the enigmatic Boris Karloff. A lot has changed since then and the mummy in today’s cinema shows how good it can be, full of big fights and even bigger set pieces.

Several stories caught my attention, though I do have my favourites. Let’s start with a long one; “Tollund,” by Adam Roberts for once isn’t based on Egyptian mummies, but a Scandinavian one where a team of archaeologists find the site of a mummy in Jutland, though it doesn’t go so well for them. Using a known Pharaoh is a daring way of bringing back a mummy as Paul Cornell does with “Rameses on the Frontier,” where he comes back to modern day searching North America for his son Seti. The story is interesting and comical in some ways, and starts the anthology off on the right track. Lou Morgan’s “Her Heartbeat, An Echo,” is about a security guard who looks after a new addition to the museum, an Egyptian princess, but if you want to go with a more comical story, “Akhenaten Goes to Paris,” by Louis Greenberg should tickle the funny bone as Akhenaten in mummified form needs to get to a meeting but he has to get there first and it isn’t as easy as it seems. The stories are a great read and full of the ingredients that make them Egyptian for the most part with the right feel and imagery.