Here come them undead again…

January 22, 2008

Zombie Anthology

The Undead: Zombie Anthology (#1) ; The Undead: Skin and Bones (#2 ); The Undead: Flesh Feast (#3), by various. All published by Permuted Press.

Yep. More flesh-tearin’, blood-goutin’, brain-splatterin’ goodness courtesy of, well, really a great number of people who’ve contributed short stories, most of them on or associated with the Permuted Press imprint. And in general very entertaining, with some of the tales downright thought-provoking and original (all right, there’s always a few stories in any collection that, er, stink like rotting flesh, but across three books so far and probably 800 pages there are remarkably few).

Skin and Bones 

Zombie seems to be a literary genre, in the way of bit-lit (I had to choke those words out, but it’s a genre title like the even worse ‘chick-lit’ whatever I think of its tweeness), all of its own at the moment. Zombie fiction has exploded all over the place, even moving into the ‘legitimate mainstream’: World War Z by Max Brooks is probably the current compelling example. It may well collapse and… rot in a year or two under its own steam — that often happens with subgenres; it may resurrect itself into something new, or ally with paranormal romance (the highbrow term for bit-lit). Who knows? Not I.

If truth be told it isn’t just the blood and guts I’m interested in. I’ve always been morbidly fascinated by apocalypse fiction and well-imagined post-apocalyptic societies, and certainly these three anthologies have nearly a hundred different variations of these, some extremely well realised and some utterly bizarre (I’m thinking of the zombie Wizard Of Oz story here). I also find it fascinating to peek briefly into these little slices of life (or undeath), to be able to see peoples’ imaginations going very briefly mad, unconstrained by the metaphorical shackles of novelhood or the conventions of longer prose. The one thing short story writers don’t necessarily have to do — and this is almost tailor-made for zombie-story writers ;P — is play by the rules of what we might be expecting from a situation. Endings are often grim, horrific, or just a flat-out screaming “WHHHYYYYYY??!?!?!?!“… but very rarely are they predictable.

Flesh Feast

 

Permuted Press have done well with these. The books themselves are very professionally designed (the contents page of The Undead: Flesh Feast in particular is done like a rather gruesome menu, and hilarious for it) and the standards of the selections therein stay almost uniformly high. You may not like zombies, blood, gleefully flung guts and the end of the world, and that’s your prerogative, but enough of the tales in each volume transcend that into needle-sharp societal satire, pathos, allegory… or are just bloody funny.

And with a pun like that last line, possibly my cue to wrap this review… 😀

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