The Zombie Feed Volume 1
Jason Sizemore, Editor
Trade Paper, 264 pages, $15.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
How many zombie anthologies does it take to make a reviewer go bonkers? Answer: One too many. In the case of The Zombie Feed Volume 1, it cannot be said that this is the collection that sends a critic on a rampage; lumbering, frothing, and hungry for something brainy. Editor Jason Sizemore has compiled stories that, in general, don’t set the world on fire or champion an apocalypse of the undead in all its zombie glory. The 17 tales in the volume are overall satisfactory. Three are quite excellent, and it is that trio that demands attention.
In the category of snarky social comment – with zombies, “Hipsters in Love” by Danger__Slater is a fine example of sardonic satire: “Zombie society is not all that different from human society, really. There are the same blank-faces, ennui, despondency I’ve always seen in people. Except now there’s just a bit more cannibalism.” Slater pokes fun at the mentality of being hip, and trying to retain those hollow values while the world falls apart. It’s a matter of style over substance; being shallow requires a certain myopia. For the protagonist of this yarn, superficial instincts provide a survival mechanism.
Survival is the theme of K. Allen Wood’s “Goddamn Electric,” in which a senior citizen confronts unexpected changes in his neighborhood. During the course of an evening, an atmospheric shift occurs, causing concern in a close community: “They surreptitiously glanced at the pitch-black sky that had been baby blue and cloudless not thirty minutes before, as if afraid to make eye contact with an unseen demon, as if in not doing so it would somehow go away.”
When unearthly lightning strikes inhabitants of the town, they are transformed into zombies. The scene for the horrific shift in demographics is splendidly set up: “At the window, Everett stared into a vast, starless space. The cold came through in sharp waves of winter as if it were a living, breathing thing. An ungodly crack of thunder crashed down, burying deeper the notion that this was a strange but natural phenomena easily explained by science. The windows shivered in their frames, the old house groaned like a mythical beast roused from centuries of undisturbed slumber – and still nothing stirred the trees or bushes.”
Woods’ story succeeds on several levels. Its most refreshing element is the central character: A man in his seventh decade of life, who has seen and experienced much; facing not just death, but terrifying undeath. Giving up is always an option for the elderly and, as Everett weighs the choices, tenacity battles with resignation. Resiliency is put to the test with a poignant punch, and a dash of humor.
The most powerful narrative in the anthology is “Rabid Raccoons” by Kristin Dearborn. Playing against the critters’ cuteness, and addressing the pesty-scavenger nature of the beast, Dearborn takes a calculated gamble and ups the terror ante. A teen-aged girl drifts apart from her best friend, causing an antagonistic rift. The friend’s mother has warned the girls since childhood about “the rabid raccoons.” Admonition leads to retribution in sequences that build in tension. The protagonist, while going on a run, encounters what she believes is road kill. After closer examination, she concludes: “This raccoon seemed different, really caught my attention. It was like all his insides had exploded bright red out of his back end, but his face was intact. It really brought me out of my rhythm, and a minute later I noticed there were no crows or flies around him.” As the masked varmits become increasingly aggressive, it becomes obvious that rabies is not the prime concern: “The wire from the screen cut at the raccoon’s lips and tongue. The teeth looked small, but cruel, like cat’s teeth. Blood joined the thin froth around its mouth giving it an appearance like it’d been drinking something pink. When it would pause from the chewing, it left strings of bloody saliva between its face and the screen.”
The Zombie Feed Volume 1 is yet another collection capitalizing on the peculiar popularity of zombies. Fortunately, within the book’s pages is a trilogy of tales that redeem the theme and keep it from tottering into the tedious.