Last week in Let's Talk Zombies we scratched the surface of some great zombie reads. Let's look at some more...
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In the tradition of many classic zombie films, sometimes zombie novels are all about survival. Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick follows survivors of an electromagnetic pulse that kills most of the world's population and turns some of those who remain into zombies while giving others superhuman senses. Dead City by Joe McKinney follows the heroics of a police officer who deals with a zombie plague infesting his hometown. In David Moody's Autumn series, a disease kills off 99 percent of the world's population...and reanimates them as zombies. In David Wellington's Monster Island, a former UN employee, with the assistance of East African child soldiers, attempts to retrieve precious AIDS medication from a zombie-infested Somalia. Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero shows the zombie plague from a military viewpoint, while his novel Rot & Ruin features a 15-year-old training to be a zombie killer. The premise of Mira Grant's Feed and Deadline puts a new-media spin on the zombie apocalypse when it asks: how will society continue to communicate when the world is full of zombies?
You would imagine that if a zombie apocalypse were to occur, you'd want to make sure your loved ones are safe. That's the driving force behind The Rising by Brian Keene, in which the protagonist tries to find his son during the zombie apocalypse, and Ben Tripp's Rise Again, in which a troubled war veteran tries to find her runaway sister.
Unlike most portrayals, the zombie apocalypse is not always so sudden. Dust and Frail by Joan Frances Turner imagines a world where humans both alive and undead have co-existed side-by-side for centuries...a delicate balance now threatened by the onset of a new illness. In Daryl Gregory's Raising Stony Mayhall, a woman discovers a zombie baby in 1968 and raises it as her own. James Knapp's State of Decay features corpses technologically regenerated to handle society's dirtiest jobs.
Here's another surprise about zombie fiction—zombie stories aren't always about escape. Dead Mann Walking by Stefan Petrucha features a man falsely executed for a crime but brought back to life because of his innocence. In Scott Kenemore's Zombie, Ohio, a college professor dies in a car accident and is reborn as an intelligent zombie only to find that people fear him and his death may not have been an accident. Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen focuses on relationships as the world succumbs to the zombie apocalypse.
The zombie subgenre can also be a platform for more meaningful stories. The theme of Lucius Shepard's sophisticated Green Eyes, for example, is one of lost identity. John Ajvide Lindqvist's zombie novel Handling the Undead shows the societal impact of a zombie plague. Zombies are used as a metaphor in Amelia Beamer's The Loving Dead, where the infection is spread through sex and kissing. The Unblemished by Conrad Williams, meanwhile, uses a backdrop of the rising undead for the multiple character studies that inhabit the foreground.
Zombie stories sometimes have a lighter side, as well. In the comedic Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez, a diner owner hires two men to handle her zombie problem. In Dead Stay Dead by Paul Jessup, a ghost whisperer and her gypsy roommate who possesses the ability to make a person's head explode join forces to protect their school campus from being overrun by zombies. In My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland, a drug-addicted high school dropout and ex-con loses her delinquent lifestyle when she becomes a zombie.
Readers who like two great tastes that go great together should look at the variety of zombie mashups populating the bookstore shelves. If you like classics, consider Pride, Prejudice and Zombies or any of the other ones I've previously mentioned. If you like Star Wars, try Joe Schreiber's Death Troopers and Red Harvest. Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century series puts zombies in a steampunk setting. Double Dead by Chuck Wendig pits its lone vampire protagonist against the newly risen zombies that threaten its food supply. Meanwhile, Dead in the West by Joe Lansdale is a terrific zombie western.
So, feast up and enjoy!
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews.