St Martin’s Press, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-312-65079-7
Horror, 2010 (Reissue)
Hungry for Your Love was previously published in electronic format by Ravenous Romance back in 2009. This print edition I am reading is published by St Martin’s Press. I’m not sure whether this edition has been changed in any way from the digital edition.
And yes, there are plenty of zombies in this anthology. However, I don’t agree with the book’s description – “an anthology of zombie romance” – because only some of the stories here actually feature zombies in love. Even then, I’d hesitate to call some of these stories “romance” due to the bittersweet nature of these stories.
Sure, Stacey Graham plays for laughs in Eye of the Beholder when two zombies with rotting body parts and all fall in love at first sight, and that story does have its charms. But stories like Francesca Lia Block’s Revenants Anonymous and Steven Saus’s unexpectedly sweet and tender Kicking the Habit are as melancholic as they are romantic. Zombies in these stories represent our dead-like shambles as we go about in our daily routine in the rat race, and in these stories, we are the zombies and we love, shag, and eat people in order to feel alive even if for the moment. I know, this is such a clichéd theme when it comes to the zombie genre, thanks to every pimply writer or film maker who saw George Romero’s films a thousand times and imagined that he or she could use the same message and still be considered an original observer of human nature. But when I read Vanessa Vaughn’s Some New Blood, a most fiendish story of a zombie couple who are invited to the new neighbor’s swingers party, those clichéd themes still work in the hands of the capable writer.
Other authors play it a bit safe and churn out tales of humans falling in love during a zombie outbreak. Gina McQueen’s Apocalypse as Foreplay is a particularly good example of one such story that works for me: it has the right balance of irreverent humor and “we may be dead tomorrow – let’s throw caution to the wind and make love now!” sentiment to drive home the whole concept of love and sex during the end of the world as we know it. Mercy Loomis’s White Night, Black Horse tackles zombies, voodoo-style, and manages to be both a horror story and a romance at the same time, although in this case the monsters are humans, not zombies. For stories with human characters surrounded by hungry zombies, Kilt Kilpatrick’s Last Times at Ridgemont High is very amusing, but it is not a romance by any stretch; it’s an irreverent romp that is a cross between a teenage sex comedy and a zombie movie.
Then we have… uh, some interesting romances, so to speak, with humans falling in love with zombies. As you may imagine, these stories are more bittersweet than uplifting, as these stories portray a bleak landscape where people are so dead inside that sometimes they resemble zombies too much. SM Cross’s Through Death to Love sees a therapist – she rehabilitates zombies, teaching them to speak and walk as best as their dead bodies can allow – falling for her patient. This one has some elements of dark comedy, but it’s tad depressing nonetheless to read it. Have we reached a stage where human males are more dead inside than actual dead guys? I hope not. Nothing is more depressing here than Michael Marshall Smith’s beautifully written and haunting Later, which is about a man who loves his wife so much that he can’t let go even after her death. This one is open to several interpretations. You can imagine that the wife really came back from the dead or the husband has gone insane because he can’t accept the death of his wife, for example.
Then there are urban fantasy type of stories. RG Hart’s My Partner the Zombie reinterprets zombies as the non-rotting kind of lovable spooks, so the PI heroine’s crush on her zombie partner as they investigate the case of an attempted murder on a circus midget makes sense. Jeanine McAdam’s Inhuman Resources is a cute story of zombie hunters falling in love, but I cannot stand the heroine. She’s whiny, immature, and annoying – and yet she gets rewarded in the end for being a brat.
There are stories that don’t even pretend to be romantic. Jan Kozlowski’s First Love Never Dies is a horror story where the humans are the real monsters. I like this story. Brian Keene’s Captive Hearts is about revenge. I don’t know what these two stories are doing in this “zombie romance” anthology. Regina Riley’s Undying Love features a romance in the zombie’s past, but the zombie’s present story is left dangling. Still, this one can be considered a potential romance in the making if I want to grasp at straws to justify its inclusion in this anthology.
There are a handful more stories in here, but they don’t make as much impression on me as the stories I’ve mentioned.
At any rate, Hungry for Your Love is a diverse and entertaining read for a horror fantasy anthology. The stories are a mixed bag, of course, but, good or bad, they all contribute to the diversity of the collection. Most of the stories have their charms. This is one anthology that I have a good time reading, but I’d hesitate to recommend it to any romance reader who isn’t also a fan of the horror or fantasy genre because even the more romantic stories in this anthology may not necessarily meet the expectations of a romance reader.