July 8, 2011

Rabid Reads: "The Zombie Feed Volume 1" by Jason Sizemore (editor)

The Zombie Feed Volume 1
edited by Jason Sizemore
an imprint of Apex Publications
Available via: Amazon / direct from Apex

A few years ago, I was pretty sure the zombie phenomenon had run its course. I think it's safe to say I was way off. But in 2011, you'd think now the zombie trope was worn out. The publication of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies should have made that clear. But, like vampires and other long-running creatures of the night, the walking dead are continually dusted off by authors and thrown into new stories, to explore multiple facets of the human condition. Zombies are here to stay, and as such, Jason Sizemore has plumbed some of the more engrossing stories from burgeoning authors of every stripe.

The Zombie Feed Vol. 1 offers up seventeen short stories, each with its own variety of zombie, and each with its own way of looking at the characters who must either contend with the undead or with being the undead. The table of contents looks like this: "Not Dead" by BJ Burrow; "Tomorrow's Precious Lambs" by Monica Valentinelli; "Cold Comfort" by Nathan Tapley; "This Final December Day" by Lee Thompson; "Broken Bough" by Daniel I. Russell; "The Sickness Unto Death" by Brandon Alspaugh; "A Shepard of the Valley" by Maggie Slater; "Twenty-Three Second Anomaly" by Ray Wallace; "The Last Generation" by Joe Nazare; "Bitten" by Eugene Johnson; "Lifeboat" by Simon McCaffery; "Rabid Raccoons" by Kristen Dearborn; "Zombies on the Moon" by Andrew Clark Porter; "The Fare" by Lucien Soulban; "What's Next?" by Elaine Blose; "Goddamn Electric" by K. Allen Wood; and "Hipster in Love" by Danger_Slater.

Rather than dive into every story, I'll simply highlight a few of the stories from which I gleaned the most enjoyment.

"Tomorrow's Precious Lambs" involved a blue-collar kind of guy working for a company tasked with disposing of zombies as if he were a termite exterminator. He's called to a wealthy family's home to exterminate a child zombie sheltered by her parents who insist she's not infected. She is though, but that's not the real problem. The exterminator will have a harder time dealing with the father than the daughter. I really liked this one for taking the zombies, making them seem mundane in a sense, then twisting the story into something else just as disturbing.

In Lee Thompson's "This Final December Day," Frank, a former police officer, is on a journey to rejoin a woman he loves, yet abandoned in a sense to go off on his own crusade amidst the zombie uprising. Along the way, he joins forces with a young photographer who helps him navigate through the ruined streets and ravenous hordes. There was a bleakness to this story that felt very familiar compared to other stories, but really resonated as Frank struggled through. And the ending packed a real punch, in my opinion.

"Shepard of the Valley" by Maggie Slater might be my favorite of the bunch. A man of faith makes his home in a desolated airfield, undisturbed by any savagery from other survivors in a desperate situation. He's gather a dozen or so zombies and "saved" them, so to speak, fashioned them in restraints and electronic devices that essentially domesticate them--keep him company. A young woman he mistakes for a shambling zombie at first, one more to his collection he initially hopes, offers the first sign of real companionship. She's a bit rough around the edges though, and is pretty handy with a shotgun when pushed. I loved this story for its tragic strangers in the night tale, with tinges of I Am Legend and other tales that show how deep loneliness can go.

Then there was "Lifeboat" by Simon McCaffery, which shows a view of a viral zombie outbreak from the view of a cruise ship's deck, as they meander the Caribbean and south-east American coastline for safe harbor. There's not a lot to be found though, as the outbreak has gone global, and docking for supplies is done in short, harried bursts. Even worse is that other human survivors off-ship see them as one more prize of resources to be hunted down. The ceaseless danger of the zombies, the high seas, and other ships is captured very well and made for a really good story.

I'll also offer a nod to a couple of quirky tales, "Rabid Raccoons" and "Cold Comfort", for their humor interspersed with horror.

I'd say seventeen stories is enough to offer variety to any zombie fan. And for those who haven't dipped their toes in this genre could find a nice sampler with this volume. You aren't likely to enjoy all of the stories, but I'll bet you'll find a couple with which you can warm up to the undead. For me, it provided a great window into the worlds of some authors I was otherwise unfamiliar, as well as get a little more goodness from a few whose names I'm already aware (Lee Thompson and Daniel Russell to name two). I'll be interested to see what The Zombie Feed Volume 2 has to offer someday, but for now I'll simply recommend this first volume.

1 comment:

  1. I used to think zombies would be a passing fad too. I'm not much of a zombie person so I honestly haven't read a lot of books about them, but a good story is a good story...so I am broadening my horizons.