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Thursday, September 6, 2012

REVIEW: 21st Century Dead

Todd Jepperson

If you were visiting the site back in July, you remember our release coverage of an all new anthology, from award winning editor Christopher Golden, called 21st Century Dead.  If you weren't, then I suggest you go back and read our Roundtable discussion (1 and 2) and catch the free excerpt “A Mother’s Love,” from John M. McIlveen and (registration required).

Well, the book is now available for public consumption and it’s a damn fine time for a review…

21st Century Dead is a perfect follow-up to 2010’s game changing splash The New Deadwhich is currently one of the most and highest rated zombie anthologies on—wherein you will find a nice, tasty assortment of today’s freshest zombie varieties mixed in with a dash of the classic Romero-style Shambler.

Golden’s introduction, "Zombies are Good for You," is a well-crafted prelude to exactly the kinds of things you’ll find inside the book and why he chose to include them. He then steps back and lets you wander through the graveyard he’s created by combining both seasoned veterans of the genre and promising new comers. The writing is fantastic, and right from the very first story, you know why he’s been nominated six times for a Stoker (and won, both on his own and as part of a group) and twice for the Shirley Jackson. He has one of the best eyes in the business for top-quality, captivating work and he’s not about to get out of the habit.

The party gets started with Mark Morris’ story “Biters” where a little girl comes face to face with the father she thought she’d lost years ago and then Morris does something not even the most seasoned zombie reader will expect.

Orson Scott Card picks up the ball and drives it toward the goal in his story “Carousel,” which takes me back to my childhood days of “The Twilight Zone” and pulls the God card in a way I’ve never seen before.

Stephen Susco fumbles just slightly with “The Drop” before Brian Keene and the Stephanie Crawford/Duane Swierczynski duo recover and carry it right into the home territory with “Couch Potato” and “Tender as Teeth,” respectively.

for the MVP, though, I have it as a dead heat between Jonathan Maberry’s "Jack and Jill," a troubling tale of what constitutes “dead” in Stebbins County, Pennsylvania, and Thomas E. Sneigoski’s seriously unbelievable “Ghost Dog and Pup: Stay.”

Other notable entries include S.G. Browne's "Reality Bites," "Antiparalellogram" by Amber Benson, and the one-of-a-kind "Why Mothers let their Babies Watch Television: a Just-So Horror Story" by Chelsea Cain.

Considering you should be able to land the paperback for right around ten bucks, there is no way you could ever go wrong dropping your hard earned cash in exchange. If audio is your thing, you should be ready to pay about twice as much, but even for that price, you will be very happy with your purchase. Keep your eyes on the award circuit for 2012 horror literature, this is definitely a title you’ll be seeing more of. 


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