Friday, January 08, 2010

The Living Dead, by John Joseph Adams

The Living Dead
John Joseph Adams (editor)
Night Shade Books: 2008

You want zombies? John Joseph Adams has your zombies right here. It’s The Living Dead, a World Fantasy Award nominated anthology. The stories collected in The Living Dead present a varied vision of what a zombie story can be. While Dan Simmons tells a more conventional zombie story in “This Year’s Class Picture”, Clive Barker’s “Sex, Death and Starshine” presents a more animated zombie interested in the theatre, and Hannah Wolf Bowen lists out reasons why “Everything is Better with Zombies”. The breadth of fiction here is impressive.

There are some extremely disturbing stories in The Living Dead. George R. R. Martin’s “Meathouse Man” is the first story that comes to mind, with the grotesqueries of the necrophilic sex trade depicted. The story provokes a visceral reaction, but Nina Kirki Hoffman’s excellent “The Third Dead Body” provokes an emotional one.

The Living Dead is chock-full of fantastic stories, but if there is any flaw with the anthology it is simply that there sheer volume of zombie stories here can overwhelm the reader (like, well, zombies do). This is not an anthology to read straight through with very few breaks (unless one is a true zombie aficionado). Rather, to achieve maximum enjoyment, readers would be better served to dip in and read a story or maybe two per day. With thirty-four stories to choose from, this is a necrotic meal to savor.

The Living Dead is a fantastic introductory volume of zombie stories. John Joseph Adams has pulled from renowned authors and from the seminal zombie-fiction anthologies. This is a fantastic volume to jump in and see what is possible with zombies. Some readers may question the exclusion of Max Brooks from The Living Dead, but there is little else to quibble about with this massive anthology. The fiction here is top rate and JJA has a knack for picking an outstanding story.

Open the cover. Turn the page. Check out the zombie delights.


John Joseph Adams said...

Glad you liked the antho, Joe! Just wanted to address the Max Brooks question--he didn't have any short stories available for reprint at the time. His "Great Wall," had too recently appeared in its original appearance to include at the time I was assembling the anthology. Good news is that Max will have a BRAND NEW story in The Living Dead 2!

Greg said...

I already have my copy and will (hopefully) start it soon. Great review!

Chad Hull said...

I'm a bit of a spineless wonder and don't usually do any horror fiction, but I've read another anthology by Adams--whose titles I can't recall--and really liked it. Perhaps it's time I broaden my reading horizons.