Bards And Sages Publishing, $5.00, ISBN 1-84728-906-1
Dead Men (and Women) Walking is a collection of horror and fantasy stories featuring zombies and, curiously enough, vampires. I tell you, those fang-faced creatures will not go away. But this is not just an anthology of relentless gore and disembowelment, don’t worry. It’s an unexpectedly enjoyable mixed bag of comedy, horror, drama, and tearjerker. There are many stories here, too many to fit into a review unless I am willing to go on and on for at least six pages, so I’ll just mention the ones that I find memorable for one reason or the other.
Alexander Zelenyj kicks things off with a bang with Adam and Eve versus the Human Race. The premise is one seen in way too many zombie movies: they are crawling around, eating people, whoop-bee-do. But the main characters are two lovers so devoted to each other than they tune out the rest of the world, living alone and fending for themselves like Adam and Eve… until the inevitable happens and a very difficult decision has to be made. This story is a very heartbreaking one – the author very effectively reels me into the story and then leaves me feeling torn between relief that the story is over before my heart breaks completely or disappointment that my heart is still intact. This is some really good stuff here.
This story is followed by Josh Benton’s darkly comical Waking Finnegan, where a brawl at a wake causes the uisce beatha to spill onto the corpse and bringing it back from the dead. The corpse soon uses the same method on the other dead in the graveyard and eventually the legion of zombies are monopolizing the bar as the terrified humans cower in their homes, thus preventing our poor Irish hero from getting his regular intake of alcohol. Oh, the pain. Jeff Brown’s Catherine’s Well is a creepy horror story of what happens when two men foolishly decide that it would be fun to seek out a missing well in a location where a young woman was murdered and many people have disappeared into since then.
Arthur Sánchez’s Old Habits, New Habits is a hoot. Two zombies are forced to attend the Zombies Are People, 2 support group when they would rather be, you know, eating people. The ZAP2 folks want every zombie to behave and stop munching on humans. But you know what they say – old habits die hard. I love how gory and violent this story is – it’s actually funny that way. What, why are you people looking at me like that? Even more hilarious and no less entertaining is Brian Rosenberger’s Shop ‘Til You Drop, which starts out like a typical rehash of every formulaic zombie movie in which a mall features prominently, but it turns out to be something more than that, heh. The wonderfully self-absorbed heroine is too adorable for words. Meanwhile, Tristan T Tenorio’s The New Creatures suggests that zombies are looking for something more than brains from the humans they feed upon. Deep, eh? Dilman Dila ends the anthology with Billy Is Three Weeks Dead, a straight-up no-nonsense story of a corpse who returned to the site of his murder to discover who killed him.
There are many other stories and a few poems in this anthology, but the above are the ones that I find the most entertaining of the stories found here. Dead Men (and Women) Walking is a most creepy and, at times, unexpectedly amusing read. Barring an occasional weird formatting boo-boo like paragraphs getting bunched up together into one long paragraph, this is a pretty professional and well-written creepy anthology.