Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Review: Dead Set - A Zombie Anthology

Zombies…what more can really be said about them? Our culture is inundated with zombie imagery in films, video games, magazines and books, familiar to pretty much anyone. In the horror genre there are dozens of new zombie films and books every year, so it’s amazing that fans aren’t fed up with the whole zombacalypse theme. However, it seems that despite the genre being flooded zombie stories, fans can’t get enough of them and the subgenre seems stronger than ever.

So I was stoked rather than chagrined when I received Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology, edited by Michelle McCrary and Joe McKinney. Despite the hundreds (thousands?) of zombie novels, films, etc. I’ve experienced, I couldn’t wait to dive into another one, this one with short stories from authors like Lisa Mannetti, Lee Thomas, Bev Vincent, Harry Shannon, David Dunwoody, Nate Southard, Boyd E. Harris and many more.

The anthology is divided into sections, starting with Origin, The Plague Begins, moving on to In Dubious Battle and Losing Ground and ending with And to the Dust Returneth. This was an interesting and effective way to organize the anthology, giving it a more cohesive feel.

I enjoyed all the stories contained in the anthology, but my favorites included “Recess” by Rob Fox, about kids battling zombies on the playground; “Hatfield the Usurper” by Matthew Lewis, about a stunt man who decides to take full advantage of the lawlessness the zombie apocalypse brings; “Ruminations from Tri-Omega House” by David Dunwoody, a story that really makes us care about the lead character before pulling the rug out from underneath us at the finale; “Recovery” by Boyd E. Harris about “good” zombies who have been re-introduced back into society but face discrimination from most humans; “Survivor Talk” by Mitchel Whitington about a survivor-turned-radio-host that decides to risk making a dangerous trek to join other survivors; and “Good Neighbor Sam” by Mark Onspaugh that featured skewed points of view and a totally unexpected twists.

My top favorites out of the whole anthology were “Category Five” by Richard Jeter, “Pierre and Remy Hatch a Plan” by co-editor Michelle McCrary and “That Which Survives” by Morgan Ashe. “Category Five” is set in New Orleans during a fierce hurricane and follows a group of locals holed up in a bar who must battle against rising flood waters as well as zombies. I loved the original premise of the story as well as the evocative setting and colorful characters. Quite a nice little surprise at the end as well! Michelle McCrary’s contribution to the anthology is the comical “Pierre and Remy Hatch a Plan” in which two lovable but bumbling rednecks decide to steal the local tiger mascot to protect their property against zombies…but all doesn’t go as planned. McCrary crafts memorable, humorous characters and an engaging storyline. The anthology ends with the stunning “That Which Survives” by Morgan Ashe, in which a scientist describes all that’s been done to study zombies and find out what caused them…only to finally make a devastating discovery. This complex tale hits you right in the gut with its implications and features some relevant social commentary to boot!

Dead Set is a wonderful zombie anthology and shows that there is still life in the sub-genre! All of the stories were unique twists on zombies and featured unforgettable characters, situations and settings. This indie anthology is well worth your time so check it out!

Order it on Amazon!

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