Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: The Undead Vol 2: Skin & Bones

Ed. D. L. Snell & Travis Adkins, Permuted Press, 2007

Skin and Bones is the second of a series of zombie-themed anthologies from Permuted Press, a U.S. small-press publisher specialising in apocalyptic and zombie fiction. Regular HorrorScope readers might recall my review of the first anthology in this series, in which I suggested that publication – while an extremely worthwhile read – did suffer as a result of many of the stories included being extremely similar, most being obvious homages to George Romero’s zombie movies.

Well, I’m extremely happy to report that the editors have hit their stride with this second anthology, and everything about the publication – from the hideously wonderful cover art, to the range and scope of the stories therein – reflects this. There are still plenty of Romero-esque zombies, sure, but mostly presented from new perspectives, and with new twists and turns to keep them fresh (so to speak!); there are futuristic zombies, prehistoric zombies, zombies born through voodoo, and Indian witchcraft, and fungal infestations; there are humorous zombies, tragic zombies and downright frightening zombies. There are even zombie tales that don’t appear to feature zombies at all. Except that they do. Sort of. Trust me, you’ll have to read the anthology to see what I mean.

As is always the case with an anthology of this quality, I found it difficult to pick any standout pieces. I will, however, single out a few personal favourites:

David Dunwoody’s ‘The Abbot and the Dragon’ is a clever little science-fantasy/horror tale, with a number of fresh twists on several well-worn genre tropes. To say any more would give away too much. So I won’t.

‘Something Fishy This Way Comes’, by Joel A. Sutherland, is a wonderfully comic take on the zombie apocalypse, suggesting that there are far worse things that a zombie might want than eat your flesh. And no, it’s not what you’re thinking.

Eric Shapiro’s ‘The Hill’ is a chiller that, at first glance, appears to have nothing to do with zombies at all. However, the author has taken the tropes of the zombie apocalypse – fear, isolation, an unexplained and almost nonsensical foe – and created something fresh and unique. Okay – no walking dead, but this tale definitely belongs in this anthology.

‘The Traumatized Generation’, by Murray Leeder, posits how a zombie-besieged society might attempt to cope with the social and psychological ramifications upon our younger citizens. And, as always, the government gets it horribly wrong. A very nasty little tale indeed.

There’s also a full novella, ‘Skin and Bones’, by co-editor D. L. Snell, which draws from both voodoo and Night of the Creeps to achieve some extremely effective chills and grue, plus an excerpt from Kim Paffenroth’s novel (also published by Permuted), Dying to Live. I usually ignore excepts from publishers’ ‘coming soon’ lists, but – again testifying to the tightening of the reins by the editors of this anthology – this excerpt stood well enough on its own to be included, and immediately made me want to run out and grab a copy of the novel.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m giving this publication two thumbs up. Anyone with the slightest interest in zombies should read it, as should any general fan of well-written, engaging horror.

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