Sunday, August 05, 2012

Book Review - 21st Century Dead (A Zombie Anthology) Edited by Christopher Golden

21st Century Dead (A Zombie Anthology)
Editor: Christopher Golden
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: July 2012
Trade Paperback
352 pages
Advance Readers Copy – Uncorrected Proof


Short fiction has always been problematic for me. Even the best anthologies sometimes fail to hold my interest for very long. In addition, there’s the long-argued dilemma of how to review an anthology. Should the book be reviewed as a single entity or should each story be reviewed separately?  What makes matters infinitely worse for me is that five of the last seven books I’ve received for review are short story anthologies.  Guess it’s time to make up my mind… or not.

So, zombies, right? What could possibly be wrong with a short story anthology featuring zombies? In the case of 21st Century Dead? Absolutely nothing! Infinitely better is that Chris Golden has brought together some of the most unusual and interesting “zombie” stories ever written. This is not your usual faire of shambling undead but a strange mixture of victims, weirdoes, and the most maladjusted walkers and non-zombie zombies in the history of all lifeless, ambling brain-eaters.

The first three stories, for instance, do not fit any “normal” zombie mold. Chelsea Cain’s Why Mothers Let Their Babies Watch Television is a lesson in why zombie babies should be allowed to watch TV. In Carousel by Orson Scott Card we are given a new perspective by a post-living person. (“It’s all poop!”) And when the dead are suddenly resurrected a discussion with God at the Carousel puts an end to all the suffering. In Reality Bites by S. G. Browne we see Reality TV with a twist. The Zombie Jersey Shore. The Amazing Zombie Race. American Zombie Idol. What if a TV exec discovered a rationalizing, lucid, talking zombie? Now that would be quite the Reality Bite…

Given the unique and constructive names given to the zombies in the various stories here (Infects, NODS, and Dead Ones, among others) and how zombie-ism is spread (a virus, drugs, and the apocalypse) we begin to see that the 21st Century Dead is not your typical shambling zombie anthology.  I should also mention that the stories are overloaded with social media, TV, Hollywood, and advertising. In that sense alone this anthology truly represents the 21st Century Dead.

Table of Contents:

Biters by Mark Morris
Why Mothers Let Their Babies Watch Television: A Just-So Horror Story by Chelsea Cain
Carousel by Orson Scott Card
*Reality Bites by S.G. Browne
The Drop by Stephen Susco
**Antiparallelogram by Amber Benson
How We Escaped Our Certain Fate by Dan Chaon
A Mother's Love by John McIlveen
*Down and Out in Dead Town by Simon R. Green
*Devil Dust by Caitlin Kittredge
The Dead of Dromore by Ken Bruen
All the Comforts of Home: A Beacon Story by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow
Ghost Dog & Pup: Stay by Thomas E. Sniegoiski
*Tic Boom, a Love Story by Kurt Sutter
*Jack and Jill by Jonathan Maberry
Tender as Teeth by Stephanie Crawford and Duane Swierczynski
Couch Potato by Brian Keene
*The Happy Bird and Other Tales by Rio Youers
Parasite by Daniel H. Wilson

* Denotes the stories I felt were the strongest in the anthology.

** Note to Amber Benson: Antiparallelogram needs to be written into novel. It’s too good a story to languish as a short zombie story. Everyone I know that has read it wants to know what happens next.

4 out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

21st Century Dead Amazon Page

21st Century Dead MacMillan Page

21st Century Dead Facebook Page

Official Christopher Golden Page

Christopher Golden Wiki Page

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