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Feb
08

Zombies: The Recent Dead, Edited by Paula Guran – Book Review, Part 1

ZOMBIES: The Recent Dead by Paula GuranFormat: NOOKbook
Publisher: Prime Books
Publication Year: 2010

In his introduction to this anthology of zombie stories David J. Schow, like so many before him, goes on about the symbolism and inner meaning of George Romero’s zombie films. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are two of the greatest horror films ever made, but when discussing Romero’s movies the most commonly overused term is “social commentary.” Granted, Dawn of the Dead has some things to say about consumerism, but when I read about Night of the Living Dead being an allegory for the Vietnam war and the film’s comment on racial issues (Ben, the film’s protagonist, is black but this is never once directly addressed in the film) I just don’t see it. The series’ fifth installment, Diary of the Dead, seemed to be trying to shoe-horn in the “social commentary” so desperately that I got the feeling Romero had started to believe his own press. Sometimes it seems like critics have overinflated the inner meaning of these movies in order to justify liking them. These are the quintessential modern zombie movies, isn’t that enough?

In the first story “Twisted” by Kevin Veale two well-seasoned drug users have learned they can evade the zombie hordes by being constantly drugged out of their minds. Exactly how this works they aren’t sure, but Horse and Dogwood (a.k.a. The Minister) hope to one day become “Twisted,” to have their body chemistry permanently altered by a steady stream of acid, meth, and whatever else they can ingest, so that they become zombie-proof. I wasn’t familiar with the Veale’s writing, but when he described intense diarrhea as “fluid Lovecraftian bowel-horrors” I found myself thinking, I like this guy.

Horse narrates with a pleasingly articulate style. I think the Hunter S. Thompson influence is pretty obvious as is the Mad Max angle of the story (particularly since Horse himself invokes the name of the Aussie action classic). Sometimes the narration starts getting a bit over the top, causing the reader to ask, what’s going on here? The answer, of course, is that this guy is higher than the international space station, and then it all makes sense again.

So with one story down, the anthology has started out with a nice mix of action and humor. Can the book sustain momentum? Check back tomorrow for my review of the second story, “The Things He Said” by Michael Marshall Smith.

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