Any casual glance at bookstore shelves will prove that zombie fiction—those stories involving the dead who are brought back to life, usually with the single-minded aim of killing the living and feasting on them—is, er, alive and well. It's not just books either; between The Walking Dead returning with its television mid-season premiere and the zombie mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies appearing on theater screens, it's hard to not notice it.
Those new to zombie fiction might want to use short fiction as a way to test the waters and see if it's their cup of tea. You get the benefit of a good story without the time commitment to something novel-length.
This Year's Class Picture by Dan Simmons is a beautifully written novella about a dedicated fourth-grade teacher who goes to extraordinary lengths to make sure her students are presented with every opportunity to learn, even though they are zombies. Ms. Geiss rewards her students with bits of human flesh and fends off adult zombies with her trusty rifle as she tries to maintain a sense of normalcy during the zombie apocalypse.
Isaac Marion's The New Hunger is a novella-sized sequel to Warm Bodies, a zombie love story that was adapted to film. In The New Hunger, a 12 year-old girl and her parents drive a cross a post-apocalyptic America looking for a new and hopefully safe home. Then there's 16 year-old Nora, who finds herself abandoned by her parents and left to care for her brother by herself. The final point-of-view character is a zombie who searches for the meaning of his existence and the identity he had before he died.
The Zombie Stories of H. P. Lovecraft collects six of Lovecraft's undead stories originally published between 1921 and 1931. (So noted in case you thought zombie stories were a new fad.) The stories feature Lovecraft's popular Frankenstein satire "Herbert West - Reanimator", which features a doctor who saw the human body as a machine that could simply be restarted after death. That story was the basis for the 1985 cult classic horror film Re-Animator.
There's novel-length zombie fiction, too!
Keying off the popular television series The Walking Dead, which was in turn spawned from the popular comic series, Jay Bonansinga's latest novel set in that universe, Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Invasion, features two opposing camps of zombie apocalypse survivors, the most opportunistic of which has assembled a mass of zombies to act as his unwitting soldiers in a battle for supremacy.
In Positive by David Wellington, humans are not only branded if they are susceptible to a zombie virus, they are also kept in camps away from the rest of humanity. A young man named Finn will pass the incubation period on his twenty first birthday. On his way to one of those camps, he is ambushed and tries to survive against the zombie hordes and—even more dangerous—fearful humans.
Alison Littlewood's Zombie Apocalypse! features the rich and powerful earning their keep around an exclusive hotel on the coast of Acapulco. They are invited to the luxury hotel when the zombie apocalypse breaks out. They never imagined that they'd be fighting the undead and each other for their very survival.
The Dead Won't Die by Joe Mckinney (the latest in his well-received Deadlands zombie series) takes places years after the zombie apocalypse, after humanity has been divided and relegated to a handful of survivor communities with harsh rules for safety. Meanwhile, scientists at an island research facility off the coast of Texas offer sanctuary, supplies and hope to one desperate trio of survivors. But hopes are dashed when they learn what the scientists are really doing, and how their gruesome experiments could unleash even more armies of the undead.
The final entry in John Ringo's Black Tide Rising series, where the zombie apocalypse was brought about by a devastating plague, is Strands of Sorrow, in which a hardened group of survivors fight back against the plague. In this mash-up of military and zombie fiction, the so-called Wolf Squadron plans on taking back the lands of North America from the ravaging undead.
A little more tongue-in-decaying-cheek is Diana Rowland's White Trash Zombie Gone Wild in which the series' undead protagonist, Angel Crawford, hunts for a killer who decapitates his victims. This leads her to discover a scheme meant to expose zombies to the public and destroy the life she's built.