Wednesday, December 24, 2008

“This Year’s Class Picture” by Dan Simmons: Story 1

Author: Dan Simmons
Title: “This Year’s Class Picture”
Anthology: "The Living Dead" [Title Post]
Position: 1
Length: 17 pages

Chosen as the first story in the anthology “The Living Dead”, “This Year’s Class Picture” is an exceptionally strong introductory story to the world of horror to unravel in the 500 pages and break the ice or better yet deep freeze your spine in chills. Horror fiction has a different effect than any motion picture from the genre. While a movie can inject horror and chop off the breath in your lungs, fiction is like a crippling poison. It starts with fidgeting discomfort, vibrates into a blanket of goose bumps, entrances you and before you know it you are drowning in horror.

Dan Simmons doesn’t pull back and has landed some heavy punches. Every line is ominous in multiple aspects and brings something to make your heart skip a beat. This is a story to break the stereotypes about surviving zombie attacks and establishes a solid and grim reality to something as unrealistic as zombies. The character in the story is Ms. Geiss, a middle school teacher, who happens to be the sole survivor in a city ravaged by zombies. Considering the isolation, constant quiet, absence of life and a constant threat that zombies might target her base, the middle school, she has sought protection in what made sense all her life, teaching children. However all she has to make do with are the dead ones and this is the first disturbing moment in the story. Chains, rubber gloves, protective gear, capture poles, pliers and handcuffs have become a normal ritual in handling her pupils; a long routine, which has been going on for 38 years. Sanity is a fragile shell that protects the human psyche and throughout the story the reader experiences the cracks in that shell, the fear, the paranoia, the jadedness with haunting proportions.

But this is just the undertone of the story. There is far more to it than the human tribulations. There is also the human resourcefulness, which sets us apart from any other species and which in these conditions and need of survival, has excelled. Ms. Geiss has managed to level almost the whole town around the area of the school; to transform the school into a military basis with a moat and defenses and survive for so long due to her intellect and the books in the library. A woman in her late years operating a bulldozer and shooting with firearms is likely to a make a strong impression and a strong point about human survival instincts. Of course her devotion to bringing back humanity to all the zombie children in her class and that flickering hope are the fuel ingredients to her strength. It is that desperate meticulousness that pacts the most punch.

On the zombie front, things pretty much look the same. Disturbing. Usually when it comes to children people are always uneasy and overly protective. Any tragedy that can happen to a child causes triple the reaction out of anyone and showing adolescent zombies sounds like breaking an unspeakable taboo, it makes the readers even more shocked and uneasy, but considering the positive message built up throughout the whole story, they are the best choice possible. Even though soaked with tragedy “This Year’s Class Picture” gives a faint hope that humanity can be revived even in the embodiment of the ultimate end for humans. But I shall remain silent as to not reveal too much and spoil the experience.

1 comment:

Greg Gutes said...

What city was the anthology series published in?

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