Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"The Living Dead": Long Waited Final Commentary

I have struggled with figuring out the appropriate words to draw a summary out for the anthology “The Living Dead”, much harder than it was for me than starting with the opening post. The way I see it, the reason to keep stalling and reading bits in between weeks’ and months’ worth of pauses could be explained with my desperate need for this anthology to never finish rather than it being a burden. As far as the undead go I have developed an everlasting fascination/horror and John Joseph Adams produced one wicked volume, which pays an outstanding homage to an idea that is still picking up speed as pop culture evolves. For me 500 pages didn’t seem merely enough to cover such a simple idea for a monster, a dead corpse walking, but with a no-rules-attached attitude towards anything else regarding origins, environment and actual creature attributes.

Perhaps the subject is rather bleak and depressing to be excited about and perhaps not taken seriously enough by the general public, which has been introduced only to new generation Hollywood movies. However I think that once the zombie is translated into literature the result differs from the good scare found in the movies and leans on more to the philosophical introspective look at our culture and at society. Every cultural era has its own monster. The sexually repressed Dark Ages has the incubi and sucubi, while the late 19th had Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to portray the dichotomy that is associated with the Victorian era. For me the zombie is the spokesperson of the 21st century and the new breed of human; perfect consumer. It’s been pointed out what the zombie represents countless times and yet it’s an idea that can be reinvented countless times with new scenarios, new set of survivors, new set of zombie hordes and new sets of grim morale tales.

What John Joseph Adams successfully accomplished was to find as many as possible faces of the zombies from the dumb to the smart, from the restless to the peaceful and from the victim to the predator and arrange them into an exhibition for the reader to sample. Diversity and quality are the leading traits as far as “The Living Dead” goes with legendary names in the horror genre such as Stephen King with his chilling story “The Delivery” and Clive Barker with “Sex, Death and Starshine”, which brings an air or macabre aristocratism. The anthology however shifts into new directions with Laurel K. Hamilton representing the urban fantasy genre with her story “Those Who Seek Forgiveness” and George R.R. Martin with “Meat House” to put a fantasy spin on the concept. There is humor like in “She is Taking Her Tits To The Grave” by Catherine Cheek and there is despair as in “The Skull-Faced Boy” by David Barr Kirtley and “Dead Like Me” by Adam-Troy Castro.

It is natural for the anthology to have certain lows, where stories touched the subject in a faint manner and took a wrong direction. Nevertheless “The Living Dead” remains in my opinion one of the strongest anthologies I have had the pleasure of reading, much less reviewing.

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