“Zombies: The Recent Dead”, Edited by Paula Guran, ANTHOLOGY REVIEW Part 7

Zomobies: The Recent DeadIn Nik Houser‘s “First Kisses From Beyond the Grave,” Zack Henry has been transferred to a new high school, thanks to an epic clerical error. His new alma mater, Purgatory High, is populated by dead teens whose souls are in all manner of unrest. Vampires, ghosts, and zombies make up the student body, including a genuine Egyptian mummy and a jive talking aborted fetus. The same mistake that has landed Zack at Purgatory High has transferred Paul Pennybaum, a brain-eating zombie student, to Zack’s old school and there have already been some fatalities. One such victim of brain-munching is Ginger Banks, a popular cheerleader who never gave Zack the time of day, but upon her transfer to Purgatory High the two find themselves in deep smit. The only way Zack can get back to his old school is to kill the zombie who took his place there, but that will mean leaving Ginger.

Horror and humor make for a tough mix. How can you take a multi-tentacled extra-dimensional monstrosity seriously if it’s singing show tunes and carrying a rubber chicken? For that matter do you really want to be laughing when the aforementioned beastie starts messily devouring toddlers and golden retriever puppies, regardless of the comedic might of synthetic fowl? In the wrong hands the scares will cancel out the yuks and vice versa.

On the other hand, author Houser gets it so right here that it’s just scary. And Funny. Which is kind of the point. Dare I also throw in the word poignant? Despite the fact that Zack is attending a school full of every manner of undead creature one could think of, Houser perfectly captures the high school experience, and his term “Purgatory High School” is delightfully redundant. The teen sense of isolation is done beautifully as Zack is the only kid in school with a pulse, his parents don’t quite get him, and he has trouble knowing what to say to girls:

“At least you didn’t wind up in Hell.”

“My cell phone doesn’t get any reception here!” she shouted at the black sky. “I AM in Hell!”

This story impressed the hell out of me and Houser is a writer to watch. Check out his website here and his webcomic Gentleman Caveman here.


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