The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology
Christopher Golden, Editor
St. Martin’s Griffin
Trade Paper, 400 pages, $14.99
Review by Sheila Merritt
Just when it seems that all the permutations of zombie fiction have been written, along comes a wondrous new anthology. The New Dead, edited by Christopher Golden, features nineteen stunning stories; none of which have been previously published. Some are poignant; all are powerful. The book accentuates not only a variation on a theme, but also the diverse writing styles of its contributors. The result is as stellar as the writers themselves: John Connolly, Joe Hill, Jonathan Maberry, Kelley Armstrong, to name a few.
Armstrong’s tale of revenge, “Life Sentence,” examines one man’s egocentric inhumanity. His inevitable comeuppance is horrific and sadistically satisfying. Resolution through retribution is also addressed in “Delice” by Holly Newstein. It is fascinating to compare and contrast these two stories of malevolent reprisal: They have vastly different settings, style, and structure; but are alike in their vehement outrage and compassion.
Compassion, and lack of it, get put under the literary microscope. In James A. Moore’s “Kids and Their Toys,” a group of children torture a zombie. First poking and prodding, and then escalating the violence: “The zombie was opened up like a grisly flower, his abdomen cut wide and his skin spread open like petals.” Jonathan Maberry’s “Family Business” gives a heart wrenching look into the quality of mercy. A young man is educated by his older brother to develop tenderness and tolerance. The emotional price of pity is high, but the brothers’ shared burden creates a bond. Gentle, yet potent; this story of fraternity, in multiple senses of the word, is haunting.
The love between spouses is explored in Brian Keene’s touching and ironic “The Wind Cries Mary.” Examining a marriage of opposites, Keene sensitively probes the foibles and foundation of a relationship. Death paradoxically separates the couple; as in life, they are together, but divergent.
For out and out scares, the tales by Tad Williams and Joe Hill rank high. Williams’ “The Storm Door” is a profoundly creepy story of a paranormal investigator who discovers “cold, hungry things, that had been hiding behind that darkness, hiding and waiting and hating the living for so long…” Hill’s “Twittering From the Circus of the Dead” is the compilation’s grand finale. “Twitter” becomes terrifying as the tweets progress from the mundane to the monstrous. The build up from shallow to shattering is a tour de force.
In his excellent foreword to the volume, Christopher Golden metaphorically scratches his head over the popularity of the zombie subgenre: “Eating brains, my friends, is not sexy.” Given the extraordinary stories he has assembled in The New Dead, he really shouldn’t be puzzled.