Appalachian Undead Edited by Eugene Johnson & Jason Sizemore
Genre: Adult Horror Anthology
Publisher: Apex Publications
Release date: Available now
Source: e-ARC from publisher
Original Cover Art: Cortney Skinner
In a word: A diverse collection of zombie stories with a distinctive deep south flavor, by turns gruesome, droll and gloomy, with enough variety for just about every type of reader.
A cigarette clung to her lower lip like a fish that had resigned itself to the hook. ~ from Being in the Shadow by Maurice Broaddus
After reading Desper Hollow by Elizabeth Massie, another Apex book about zombies in Appalachia, I was ready to dive into this unique collection of tales set near the Appalachian Mountains. Appalachian Undead and its companion chapbook Mountain Dead are full of stories by both newcomers and seasoned writers, and each story, while following the theme of the collection, has its own particular flavor. While some of the stories gleefully indulge in the expected zombie guts and gore, some are unexpectedly poignant and yes, sad. Still others are on the humorous side and made me laugh out loud. Of course I had my favorites, but each one offered something unique to the zombie genre, and I even discovered some new-to-me writers that I’m going to be keeping an eye on.
With a total of twenty-four stories between the two books, I don’t have time to talk about each one individually, but I do want to highlight the ones that stood out for me. Let’s start with my very favorite story:
The Girl and the Guardian by Simon McCaffery. Oh how I loved this story, and I adore Simon McCaffery! A winged creature from another realm protects a girl who is the survivor of a zombie attack. McCaffery’s writing is so beautiful, and the story was both joyful and sad:
She has come to believe that the creature is a guardian angel sent by her mother, CATHERINE, who lives three states away and does not communicate with her ex-family. A guardian to watch over her and pluck her nightly prayers from the crisp air like fireflies as they float heavenward.
Just wow. I also loved:
Repent, Jessie Shimmer! by Lucy A. Snyder. This story of a witch who gets herself into a whole heap of trouble when she goes into the swamp to retrieve a lost crystal for her grandmother took me by surprise with its inventive characters and plot. And I’m nominating this as the best opening paragraph ever:
My familiar, Palimpsest, kept insisting we go back to Madame Devereaux’s house in the heart of the swamp to properly thank her for curing him of lycanthropy. And I kept telling him it wouldn’t work; he was stuck in the form of a bear, and it would be awfully hard to explain to the townsfolk if we stopped to get a cake and flowers down at the Piggly Wiggly. Not to mention the difficulty of finding a rental car with a seat that could hold 800 pounds of grizzly.
Sleeper by Tim Lebbon. I loved the way this was written, as a man who has been arrested for killing his wife flashes back to the reasons behind his desperate actions. It was a horribly sad story devoid of hope but full of love.
Unto the Lord a New Song by Geoffrey Girard. I was curious to read more of Girard’s work after reading Project Cain, and I wasn’t disappointed. This completely unique take on the zombie tale involves a very unusual church choir—and that’s all I’m going to say about the plot. Told by a distinctive narrator, this story was violent and gruesome, yet I couldn’t stop turning the pages!
Company’s Coming by Ronald Kelly. This was one crazy ass story! A near-blind woman living by herself decides to help shelter a zombie couple and their baby—and you can’t even begin to guess what happens as a result. A strange mix of characters who elicit an emotional response from the reader, full of lip-smacking blood-and-guts goodness.
When Granny Comes Marchin’ Home Again by Elizabeth Massie. This started out almost exactly like Massie’s Desper Hollow, but then turned a corner. I loved her perfect pacing and comedic timing.
Long Days to Come by K. Allen Wood. This sad story about a husband and wife trapped in their house during a zombie attack was excruciating to read, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Wood’s writing is horrifically beautiful.
Almost Heaven by Michael Paul Gonzalez. What happens when a tour bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and the bus is set upon by zombies? This was a kinder, gentler zombie story—sort of.
And the winner of the Craziest Idea For a Story Ever goes to:
Let Me Come In by Lesley Conner. An unexpected zombie story using the three little pigs and the big bad wolf as characters…That’s all I’m gonna say!
I would love to talk about all of the stories in these collections, but there just isn’t time. Each one of these authors brought something different to the zombie table: Ben Vincent, Paul Moore, Karin Fuller, Jonathan Maberry, John Skipp & Dori Miller, G. Cameron Fuller, Tim Waggoner, John Everson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Maurice Broaddus, S. Clayton Rhodes, Gary A. Braunbeck, Michael West and Sara M. Harvey.
For any zombie fan, especially those who like to wallow in the swamps and backwoods of American, Appalachian Undead and Mountain Dead deliver the goods. Highly recommended.
Mountain Dead is currently FREE! Click here for more information.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying review copies. Check back soon for an interview with Jason Sizemore, one of the editors and Head Honcho of Apex Publications!