Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: The Undead Vol 3: Flesh Fest

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

Flesh Fest is the third in a series of zombie-themed anthologies from Permuted Press, a U.S. small-press publisher specialising in apocalyptic and zombie fiction. With this volume, series editors Snell and Adkins continue to showcase their eye for excellent zombie fiction with fifteen themed tales, all well-crafted, and most approaching the zombie phenomenon from fresh perspectives.

Again, difficult to pick the standouts from such an overall-brilliant anthology, but here’s a list of personal favourites:

Matthew Masucci’s ‘Adam Repentant’ offers a zombie uprising of the biblical kind, and from an unexpected source. Some deft reimagining of Biblical fables results in a tight, atmospheric and engaging tale.

Rick Moore’s ‘Basic Training’ is a frankly horrific take on the manner in which ordinary, decent folk might evolve (or devolve) psychologically in order to deal with the unbearable. Wonderfully written, but not for the faint-hearted or easily offended.

‘Killing the Witch’, by A. C. Wise, presents us with a zombie fairy-tale – specifically, a dark retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Unique, lyrical and unsettling, this is a great example of the broad scope available to authors of zombie fiction when they allow their imaginations to run free.

Scott Standridge’s ‘If You Believe’ is a chilling tale that may have you blocking up your chimney this Christmas. It begins gruesomely, and gets worse. Ramsey Campbell would appreciate the sense of dread with which the author manages to imbue one of our beloved festive icons.

‘The Legend of Black Betty’, by Tim Curran, is undoubtedly the masterpiece of this anthology. Curran, whose work usually falls into the Lovecraftian camp, has here produced one of the most genuinely frightening horror stories I’ve read in quite a while. The mix of Old West and zombies in fiction is certainly not new, but the sheer sense of terror achieved – largely through use of the 'campfire' mode of storytelling, with one character relating much of the tale to another – raises the piece well above the same-old.

And, parochial as this may make me, it’s nice to see local lad Steven Cavanagh get a guernsey in this publication, his brutal tale ‘Street Smarts’ being first cab off the rank.

As with volume two of this series, I would highly recommend this anthology to all fans of zombie fiction, as well as to fans of horror in general. If Permuted Press continues to publish anthologies of this caliber, I may have to find a whole new range of superlatives with which to describe future releases.

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