Fans of the horror genre in general, and zombie fiction in particular, will eat up this anthology of thirteen short stories about zombies, Death, Be Not Proud. Some of the best horror authors of today have contributed terrifying tales for this collection, including one of the undisputed masters of the genre, Jonathan Maberry, who
penned “The Wind Through the Fence.” The other authors include
I enjoyed every tale in the anthology, but will briefly touch on just a handful of them here.
- Joe McKinney (“State of the Union”)
- Gord Rollo (“Unplugged”)
- Joseph Mulak (“Quality of Life”)
- Gregory Hall (“The Elephant in the Room”)
- Lucy Snyder (“The Great VuDu Linux Teen Zombie Massacre”)
- Rick Hautala (“Surprise”)
- Steven Shrewsbury (“Deep Throat with Zombie”)
- Scott Christian Carr (“Nuke Love”)
- David Dunwoody (“Dead Man and the Sea”)
- Sheldon Higdon (“Where the Dead Go to Die”)
- Skip Novak (“Cindy’s Condition”)
- Dave Brockie (“Bone Manor Revisited”)
Gord Rollo’s spine-tingling “Unplugged” opens the anthology. It’s a very short but entertaining gem of a tale, a perfect appetizer to whet your whistle for the main course of gore and guts to come. Some people hold the misconceptions that zombies are mindless corpses and that a bullet to the brain kills them. The narrator discovers that these two theories about zombies are misconceptions because he... Almost got me, but you’ll have to read it to find out.
“Quality of Life” by Joseph Mulak is a scary story to me because it asks the question: “What should a person or family do when a loved one who has become a zombie needs to be treated as if he/she had a medical condition, like Alzheimer’s?” Imagine if your health expenses didn’t end just because you happened to be among the Living Dead. Further imagine, if a relative of yours was a zombie under such a medical system, and you were responsible for paying his/her bills, and his/her quality of life(?), what steps would you take to make sure the right thing was done—whatever the “right thing” might be?
You’ll have an idea of what Skip Novak’s brilliant “Cindy’s Condition” is if you can picture a famous celebrity like Lindsey Lohan or Miley Cyrus as a zombie (not perhaps a huge stretch of the imagination), with an agent willing to do anything so that the actress/singer he represents will continue to earn him a paycheck. The Cindy of the story is a “1990's Pop-Princess” who, after becoming a zombie, becomes a “new millennium DIVA.” She’s the type of zombie who is able to speak, sing, and in most ways act like she always has—but every once in a while, a part of her body might fall off, like her nose, and she’ll proceed to eat it, as she does at the beginning of the tale. Anyone who seeks to be her paramour does so at his own risk; she will kill and eat them, as well. Face lifts and boob jobs are one thing—talk about your “high maintenance” chicks.
I really loved reading “Bone Manor Revisited” by Dave Brockie. I hadn’t read anything by this author before, possibly because he is best known as the lead singer of the shock metal group GWAR and has just recently published his first novel, Whargoul, from Eraserhead Press. In “Bone Manor Revisited,” Brockie makes a massive, ancient, macabre manor/hotel—called Bone Manor—a character in its own right. He gives Bone Manor a back story, and the details about the many people who have been murdered there in various gruesome ways reminds me of other infamous spooky literary hotels, like Rose Red and the Stanley Hotel (which actually exists in Colorado), as well as the horror fiction of Stephen King. The first-person narrator of the story is fiendishly cool, and the back story of how his face became so disfigured is another highlight.
Jonathan Maberry’s “The Wind Through the Fence” posits what America would be like after a zombie apocalypse. What sorts of jobs would be available to the humans left alive? What would they eat, when society is falling further and further into the Dumpster, and there are no farmers left to continue to feed the remaining humans?
Maberry answers these burning questions and more: the remaining humans would try their best to build a fence to keep the zombies separated from them. They would try to reclaim territory from the zombies, and keep building the fence to include whatever land they’ve reclaimed. Food is a critical issue, as it is becoming more and more scarce. When some of the humans, like the tale’s main protagonist and first-person narrator, begins to wonder where the constant moaning sounds that are in the air day and night originate from—almost like a mournful wind—the result is another great short story from one of today’s most famous horror authors.