From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

The New Dead: Christopher Golden, Editor

Review by Richard Dansky

The New Dead, edited by Christopher Golden, is an example of the “big tent” theory of zombie fiction. Instead of restricting the content to the classic Romero-esque shamblers, Golden threw the gates wide open and the result is a wildly diverse, inventive batch of stories that will please both hardcore zombie fanatics and more casual dabblers in the subgenre. On the more traditional side of things, stories like Tim Lebbon’s “In the Dust” and James A. Moore’s “Kids and Their Toys” show how much life—no pun intended—there still is in the traditional zombie trope. David Wellington’s “Weaponized” wanders a little further afield, postulating a situation in which the zombies are the least of the horrors being unleashed, while noted zombie-meister Brian Keene eschews his usual gorefest for an oddly touching post-mortem love story.

If all the stories were about the standard brains-seeking shambling horde-type zombie, there’d still be more than sufficient diversity to make The New Dead a good read. But other stories throw the gates open wider, relying on definitions of “Zombie” that are either “loose” or “not really zombies”, depending on the reader’s particular orthodoxy in the matter. All that being said, some of the best stories in the anthology use this wider focus. The first one in the book, John Connolly’s “Lazarus” simultaneously forces the reader to confront the implications of the notion of the zombie, touching on material usually left for the sacred in a context that’s seen as far more profane. Mike Carey’s “Second Wind” inverts the usual zombie-human relationship, while Aimee Bender’s “Among Us” is a more literary take on the question of zombification itself.

The book closes with Joe Hill’s “Twittering From The Circus of the Dead”, a twenty-first century update on the diary story that simultaneously reaffirms and updates the classic zombie tale. In a way, it summarizes the entire anthology, a look at zombies that reaffirms the elements that allow them to maintain their grip on our imagination while showing how broad the possibilities for them are.

The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology
Christopher Golden, Editor
St. Martins Griffin
$14.99 | tpb | 384 pages
ISBN: 978-0-312-55971-7
February, 2010

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