Friday, October 9, 2009

Zombie and Son

Stranger by Simon Clark (2003): A fairly enjoyable addition to the quasi-zombie apocalypse subgenre. In what can work as a fairly overt subtext about illegal immigration, Stranger posits a world where a strange illness initially causes virtually everyone in South and Central America and eventually Mexico to migrate north into the United States. At first, those afflicted with the disease (later nicknamed 'Jumpy') are peaceful, but then, as if on cue, they go bonkers and pretty much destroy civilization in the U.S., parts of Canada and, so far as we know, everywhere else on the planet.

Not only do the armies of the Jumpy (soon swelled by those infected in the target countries) kill most normal humans they come across, but they also systematically destroy shelter, food supplies and clean water supplies. And then they congregate in various places to protect something, or a number of somethings, that represent the end-stage of the disease (or whatever it is). We meet the Greg, protagonist, in an isolated community in the northern U.S. that's managed to keep Jumpy out, in part because our protagonist can somehow sense the afflicted, even when they're not showing any symptoms. Various post-apocalyptic shenanigans ensue as Greg and a ragtag group of survivors try to both survive the situation and discover who or what is behind the disease, and what Greg's mysterious connection to the outbreak is, if anything.

The Year's Best Horror Stories Series 1 edited by Richard Davis (1971): This is either the first volume in DAW's long-running Year's Best Horror Stories antholgies of the 70's, 80's and early 90's or a reprint of British Sphere Books' similar anthology series. In any case, it offers an interesting and enjoyable cross-section of horror fiction nearly 40 years ago.

The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams (2008): Or, 34 post-1970 English-language stories about zombies. If I were going to come up with guesses as to what prominent horror writers might come up with a story about zombies who eat their living victims' genitals first, Poppy Z. Brite and Clive Barker would probably top that list. Here, Brite doesn't disappoint in "Calcutta, Lord of Nerves", leading me to believe that Brite is the world's oldest distaff giggly 11-year-old gross-out obsessed boy. The anthology weighs a little too heavily on the social satire and commentary side of things and not enough on the actually scary side of things, but there are some gems here. John Langan's "How the Day Drawn Down" combines zombies and Our Town into a surprisingly effective bit of quasi-playwriting, for instance, while Joe Lansdale, Scott Edelman and Joe Hill also contribute stand-outs.

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