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Monday, February 8, 2010

“The New Dead” edited by Christopher Golden (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Christopher Golden Website
Order “The New DeadHERE
Read Excerpts HERE + HERE

EDITOR INFORMATION: An award-winning and bestselling writer of horror, fantasy, and suspense for adults, teens, and young readers, Christopher Golden’s bibliography includes The Veil Trilogy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Hellboy tie-in books, “Ghosts of Albion” (w/Amber Benson), “Poison Ink”, the Hidden Cities novels (w/Tim Lebbon), and “Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire”, co-authored with Mike Mignola, which they are currently scripting as a feature film for New Regency. Christopher has also collaborated with Thomas E. Sniegoski on The Menagerie series, the OutCast novels, and the comic book miniseries Talent and The Sisterhood.

ABOUT THE NEW DEAD: In the world of pop culture, nothing is hotter than zombies right now. Thanks to the commercial success of Max Brooks’World War Z”, Seth Grahame-Smith’sPride and Prejudice and Zombies”, the wildly popular video game series Resident Evil, comic books like Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Marvel Zombies, and movies like Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Zombieland, and Shaun of the Dead, the living dead are here to stay.

Now in “The New Dead”, Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden has assembled an all-original anthology of never-before-published zombie stories from an eclectic array of today's hottest writers including Joe Hill, John Connolly, Max Brooks, Kelley Armstrong, Tad Williams, David Wellington, David Liss, Joe R. Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, Mike Carey, Brian Keene, and many others. Inside are a wildly diverse and entertaining collection of new views on death and resurrection . . . the Last Word on the New Dead...

FORMAT/INFO:The New Dead” is 400 pages long divided over nineteen short stories. Also includes a Foreword by the editor Christopher Golden, and biographies on all of the anthology’s contributors. February 16, 2010 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of “The New Dead” via St. Martin’s Griffin. Cover art provided by Per Haagensen. The UK version will be published on February 18, 2010 via Piatkus Books under the altered title: “Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead”. Subterranean Press is also producing a limited signed edition (see below) of “The New Dead” that is already long sold out.

ANALYSIS:

1)Lazarus” by John Connolly. Connolly, author of the Charlie Parker novels and last year’s YA title “The Gates”, kicks off “The New Dead” with a chilling, mournful, and somewhat contentious reimagining of the Bible’s Lazarus of Bethany who was brought back to life by Jesus four days after he had died...

2)What Maisie Knew” by David Liss. One of the best entries in the anthology, “What Maisie Knew” has a little bit of everything: inventiveness (the dead reanimated as servants, Nazi science, soul photography), depravity (sex, torture and mutilation of reanimates), great writing (a compelling first-person narrative), and a fitting ending...

3)Copper” by Stephen R. Bissette. Bissette is best known as an illustrator having worked with the likes of Alan Moore, Heavy Metal, R.L. Stine, Rick Veitch and co-creating the comic book character, John Constantine. In fact, he even provided the cover art and interior illustrations for the Subterranean Press version of “The New Dead”. Stephen can write too though, as attested by his Bram Stoker Award-winning novella “Aliens: Tribes”, and in “Copper” the artist/editor/writer delivers a noir-esque tale that is much an examination of war and soldiers as it is about zombies. The best thing about this story is the Charlie Huston-meets-Dr. Seuss presentation, although it does take some getting used to: “Copper, wrapped in the cloth houses and cloth street and cloth neighbors and cloth Copper in his cloth rocker on his cloth porch.”

4)In the Dust” by Tim Lebbon. I’m a big fan of the Noreela tales by Tim Lebbon, and the author in general, so for me his contribution was one of the more anticipated short stories in the anthology. “In the Dust” is a fairly routine zombie story though, starring survivors in a post-infection milieu and dealing with such familiar ideas and themes as military quarantines, perseverance, and finding closure like discovering what happened to the protagonist’s wife. Nevertheless, another solid offering from the three-time British Fantasy Award-winning author...

5)Life Sentence” by Kelley Armstrong. Featuring magicians, shamans, necromancers, vampires, and other urban fantasy elements, I believe “Life Sentence” is set in the same world as the author’s popular Women of the Otherworld series. For an urban fantasy tale, “Life Sentence” was actually darker than I expected, and follows a very rich magician who is diagnosed with inoperable cancer, and uses his considerable wealth to discover a means of extending his life, no matter the consequences. A delightful surprise and one of the better short stories in the anthology.

6)Delice” by Holly Newstein. Zombies have long been associated with voodoo, so it only makes sense that a zombie anthology would include at least one story with voodoo in it. Set in New Orleans, “Delice” is a tale of dark voudou magic, zombis, and vengeance...

7)The Wind Cries Mary” by Brian Keene. Only four pages long, “The Wind Cries Mary” is the shortest story in the entire anthology. Despite its length however, “The Wind Cries Mary” is a sweet tale of love set in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak...

8)Family Business” by Jonathan Maberry. Jonathan Maberry’s awesome zombie/techno-thriller, “Patient Zero”, was a favorite of mine in 2009. As a result, I couldn’t wait to see what Maberry brought to the table in “The New Dead”, and the author doesn’t disappoint. Not only is “Family Business” the longest story in the anthology, it’s also one of the best, featuring creative ideas like cadaverine (a nasty-smelling concoction that disguises humans from zoms) inventive post-zombie jobs (Erosion Artists, Locksmith Apprentice, Fence Tester, Carpet-Coat Salesman, Pit Thrower, Ash Soaker, bounty hunters, etc.), the Children of Lazarus religion, and a surprisingly poignant story about family, closure, and respecting the dead...

9)The Zombie Who Fell from the Sky” by M.B. Homler. If I’m not mistaken, M.B. Homler is actually St. Martin’s Press editor, Michael Homler, and as far as I can tell, he doesn’t have anything else published. If that’s the case, then it might explain “The Zombie Who Fell from the Sky”, a story that has some impressive stuff going on like the black humor and craziness (a chihuahua named Butt Muncher, footnotes, zombie poetry, etc.), but ultimately is one of the weaker entries in the anthology due to inconsistent writing and poor execution.

10)My Dolly” by Derek Nikitas. “My Dolly” has a strong biblical theme running through it with various references to the Apocalypse, which could have been interesting if the author had explored the concept further. Instead, Derek’s focus on a former emergency medical technician and the Dolly of the title results in one of the anthology’s more forgettable stories...

11)Second Wind” by Mike Carey. Starring zombie Nicky Heath, one of my favorite supporting characters from Mike Carey’s superb Felix Castor urban fantasy series, “Second Wind” was a treat to read even if the voice and story weren’t quite what I was expecting...

12)Closure, LTD” by Max Brooks. When discussing contemporary zombie fiction, Max Brooks’ name is almost guaranteed to come up every time, so what would a zombie anthology be without the author’s inclusion? Though on the short side—six pages long—“Closure, LTD” is an interesting tale set in the world of Max Brooks’ highly popular “World War Z” about a company specializing in providing ‘closure’ for its clients...

13)Among Us” by Aimee Bender. A zombie that eats other zombies; salmon; Being John Malkovich; usury; a recently divorced sixty-year-old man . . . these individual parts make up “Among Us”, one of the more original and thought-provoking stories in the anthology...

14)Ghost Trap” by Rick Hautala. Rick Hautala’s contribution about a U.S. Coast Guard discovering a corpse while diving for ‘ghost traps’—lost lobster traps—has an old-school horror feel to it, but nevertheless is one of “The New Dead’s” spookier stories...

15)The Storm Door” by Tad Williams. When I think of Tad Williams, I immediately think of epic fantasy, so I was a little surprised to see the author included in a zombie anthology. Williams more than holds his own though with an impressive tale about a paranormal investigator named Nathan Nightingale who discovers that predatory souls are taking over the bodies of the recently deceased...

16)Kids and their Toys” by James A. Moore. What would happen if a bunch of twelve-year-old boys found a zombie one day and decided to keep it as their pet/toy? That’s the scenario James A. Moore explores in his short story and the answer, as one might expect, is not pretty. It does, however, make for same damn good reading...

17)Shooting Pool” by Joe R. Lansdale. Trouble finds a group of friends one night in a local pool hall in Joe R. Lansdale’s Southern-influenced crime story, which is engrossing but has little to do with zombies. As a result, “Shooting Pool” feels terribly out of place compared to the other entries in the anthology...

18)Weaponized” by David Wellington. Wellington is no stranger to zombies having written about them in the Monster trilogy and “Plague Zone”, and it’s quite apparent that the author is comfortable with the subject based on his entertaining contribution, which takes place in the year 2019 and focuses on wars, a savvy reporter, and a new, cheaper form of weaponry: remote-controled PMCs (PostMortem Combatants)...

19)Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” by Joe Hill. Told entirely in the form of Twitter messages (TYME2WASTE: “Hello Twitterverse. I am Blake and Blake is me. What am I doing? Counting seconds.”), Joe Hill’s story about a family that comes across a zombie circus on the way home from vacation is just pure genius, and a perfect ending to “The New Dead” anthology...

CONCLUSION: In the Foreword, editor Christopher Golden asks, “Why are we fascinated by zombies?” I’m not sure “The New Dead” anthology ever adequately answers that question, but it does provide readers with a collection of short stories that not only celebrates the zombie genre, but also examines it from different perspectives, and in some cases, introduces new ideas. On top of that, the anthology boasts an impressive mix of big-name authors, rising stars and new faces, while the stories themselves are indeed, “wildly diverse and entertaining”. Granted, there were stories (What Maisie Knew, Twittering from the Circus of the Dead, Family Business, The Storm Door, Weaponized, Life Sentence, etc.) that I enjoyed reading more than others, but a lot of that has to do with personal tastes, and it is an opinion that will differ from reader to reader. One thing is for sure though—if you love zombie fiction, then you will love Christopher Golden’sThe New Dead”...

10 comments:

Neil Patrick said...

great books seems to be horror

Anonymous said...

So glad you enjoyed 'Family Business'. It was an honor an a pleasure to be included along with so many outstanding zombie stories by a kick-ass stable of writers.

Christopher Golden deserves serious props for crafting an anthology that encouraging each writer to look deeper in order to bring freshness (pardon the pun) to the world of the living dead.

-Jonathan Maberry
www.jonathanmaberry.com

Mihai (Dark Wolf) said...

This is one anthology that intrigues me, not because there are zombies, but because of its editor and of a few names included in the line-up.
Thank you for the very nice review, Robert :)

Robert said...

Neil, "The New Dead" is one of the better anthologies I've read, but to be honest, I haven't read that many...

Thanks for the comment Jonathan! Hope to see more anthologies like this from Christopher :) Also, keep an eye out for my review of "The Dragon Factory" sometime in the next few weeks...

Glad you like the review Mihai and I hope you get the chance to read the book!

Jaci said...

I just bought this book today. I love to read other peoples views on zombies... i embrace them all. i love each element of zombies, no matter what - fast zombies, slow ones, smart ones... it leaves so much to the imagination. there are so many different takes on zombies- vampires on the other hand.. in my opinion are lame as hell. lol. zombies forever!

Anonymous said...

M.B. Homler should be ashamed of writing that story. He starts with a zombie falling onto a spire in a town. People try to get it down and then decide that it’s too much bother and leave it there. This is so unrealistic it hurts. Police would be legally obligated to investigate. No one would just leave a corpse hanging on a building. His main character is named Danny McDanielson (groan) who gets dumped by his girlfriend. A zombie plague breaks out and he wanders around pining over his ex, ridiculously oblivious to the danger around him.
The dialogues between the characters throughout the story are so unrealistic! No one speaks the way he makes his characters speak!
He relies heavily on stereotypes as well. All military personnel are stupid bullies who hate gays and want to kill people for fun. They do not act like trained professionals, but instead they act like drunken frat boys. The scientist who makes the zombie virus is a geeky loser who can’t get with women (and even though he’s smart enough to do genetic engineering, he’s apparently too stupid to recognize a virus). He acts so unprofessionally—asking the soldier to bring him a model to sleep with as reward for his work and dancing around with an uncorked vile of a bio-weapon which he spills on himself.

The poetry that is spaced throughout the story is atrocious. “In death one must grin like a fish. That way you will look at home.” …is not poetry! The ending poem is much worse, but too long to include here.
Also, the author has an infuriating need to name everything (and the names that he chooses are incredibly stupid). The main character and two soldiers have a very unrealistic argument about what to name the original zombie. They end up calling it “Sympathy”. Does anyone really believe in a zombie outbreak that people would bother name the zombies instead of just taking them down or running like hell?!
The main character is also apparently ADD because he is completely incapable of being present and aware of the situation at hand. Everything from zombies being blasted apart from gunfire to soldiers yelling orders remind him of his ex-girlfriend. No one in a crisis situation would stop and think about their ex. In a chaotic situation like he describes, people live and act in the now because distractions can lead to death. No one fighting for their lives would stop and remember their first kiss or how they made love.
I can’t believe anyone would publish that story. The only thing I can figure is that Homler is blackmailing the editor or was owed a REALLY big favor.
Shooting Pool by Joe R. Lansdale was disapointng too, not because of the writing but because it had NO ZOMBIES IN IT (this is a zombie anthology!).
Basically Christopher Golden wanted to make some quick cash by throwing together an anthology of previously unpublished stories and added in any unpublished work he could find, no matter how horribly written or irrelevant to the topic or the anthology. He should be ashamed to.
Don’t give this man your money.

Mrben said...

I agree with the above coment to a certain degree. The zombie that fell from the sky, i feel, is more of a comedy. I also think that shooting pool didnt belong. It was a really well writen piece, but i didnt pick up on the 'emotional zombiism' as j.r.l. put it. Overall, a very good book though.

The Dirty Blue said...

I'm a high school Junior who loves Zombies- so imagine my surprise when I find this book in the school library! I spent lunch hour the past few days reading it, and I have to say I agree with your sentiments on the book. The best stories in the anothology for me were "Closure, LTD", "Kids and Their Toys", "Twittering from the Circus of the Dead", and "The Zombie who Fell From the Sky".
Closure was the best for me in terms of reality and the aftermath of a zombie outbreak- not to mention I'm a huge fan of World War Z.
Kids and Their Toys had a good, childlike, "Goonies" vibe to it, up until the end, where the very tone of the story is deconstructed. Kids are already monsters- kids with a zombie are total psychos...
Twittering won the award for original storytelling. I've never seen a fully fleshed-out original story made entirely from social media clippings- just goes to show how creative people can be in this day and age. My only complaint for it is the fact that, as an internet addict and a very gullible/paranoid/impressionable person, I've always been a sucker for scary stories with a "This could be true, and it could happen to YOU!" kind of vibe- and by sucker, I mean they scare the living shit out of me. Cannibalistic "Mystery Meat" in school lunches, Companies with a secret agenda for murder; that kind of thing always leaves me shivering, and I don't mean that in a good way... Oh, who am I kidding, of course I mean it in a good way!
And of course, The Zombie who Fell From the Sky. This earns a spot in my favorites if only because after the dramatic, saddening, and disturbing horror of the rest of these stories, I can go back to this little gem and giggle my way back to a happy state of mind. The humor may be crude, and the storytelling is a little disjointed, but hey- it's a riot compared to the rest of the book.

Kodanshi said...

The Zombie Who Fell From The Sky was hilarious. Is it not obvious by its characters' names, footnotes, bad poetry, that it was supposed to be a comedy?

Anonymous said...

Just read this collection, and "Family Business" was the best! (made me cry) There were MANY excellent stories in it; the majority were 4 and 5 stars.

However, there were two stinkers, the worst being "The Zombie That Fell From The Sky". I could see that it was meant to be funny, but I totally agree with the poster who said that Homler should be ashamed of writing it. The sentence structures were very poor; the whole thing would be acceptable as a first draft. It desperately needs heavy editing. Maybe then the humor would be acceptable.

I couldn't even give that story one star; otherwise, the anthology would have been over 4 stars, maybe even as high as 4.5 stars.

I still recommend the book, highly!

Meran

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