The legions of the undead continue to grow. First Time Dead proudly presents a host of brand new names to the genre pantheon. Each writer contained herein might be the next “it” writer on the rise…the one to watch for. You never know where the next Romero, Kirkman, Brooks, Keene, or Wellington may emerge to scare and entertain the masses.
This is a superb collection of zombie stories by previously unpublished writers. Previously unpublished? Really? Many times during reading this I had to remind myself of this fact, such was the level of skill shown by almost all of the authors.
So here’s my take on the stories. I hope it convinces you to go ahead and beg, borrow, steal – hell, even buy – the book, because you shouldn’t really miss out on this one!
Hello Again. Strong characterisation, which is essential for a story set in the “here and now” and which helps move it along steadily. The atmosphere, created almost from the first sentence, is ethereal, it has a dreamlike quality to it and is superbly constructed. This ambience of unreality, often experienced when going through an experience too horrific to fully take in, is conveyed with maturity and dexterity.
Twisted Words – elsewhere described as the most classic and scariest story of them all. Cant argue with that!
Everything I Know About Zombies I Learned From Star Trek. Actually, it’s not everything the protagonist knows about zombies – it’s everything he knows about the indomitable human spirit, the triumph of hope over adversity, the ultimate obstinacy of the human spirit when faced with overwhelming horror. Cleverly written, a refreshing point of view, the sort of short story you want to read and re-read.
Once Bitten Twice Shy. The horror of the post-apocalyptic world as experienced by teen Lori and her younger brother as they attempt to survive. From beginning to end, it’s a gruesome romp, a battle of the vulnerable versus the undead.
Just Another Day. Excellent characterisation, you immediately feel close to Margot, the main character. The tension builds nicely from a mundane, everyday start where the “toast landed butter side down” and domestic issues are her sole concern to a point where caring for her family means – no, not doing the shopping – but fighting the undead. Superb build up, where the horror lies more in what is implied than what is overtly said. Excellent!
Inland. A story in diary form. As the post-apocalypse world progressively deteriorates, Jake and Angela’s relationship grows stronger. But can it – and they – survive?
He’s Not Heavy. A brilliant title, that says a lot and implies even more. Set against a dystopic backdrop of autocratic authority gone wrong, this mystery story deserves to be in every zombie anthology, and probably in quite a few sociology books, too, for it’s social commentary. I read it, and re-read it, I discovered what I’d missed the first time around.
As I Watch Her Walk Away. Strong, believable characters move this story on with it’s well-paced build-up and extremely sad ending. Set during the start of the outbreak, it even contains a nod towards the panic created by Orson Welles War Of The World when it was transmitted. That made me smile and adds an extra dimension to the story. Another worth re-reading again in the future.
Things Worse Than Death. From the introductory paragraph, you know this is a well written and believable tale. And when that para ends with “every breath taken was a shallow token victory for the living” you are jolted into realising the futility of the battle against the undead. There is a superb Lord of the Flies moment, when the group of survivors teeter on the edge of self-destruction. Clever and very enjoyable, with a surprise twist at the end.
Death By Dad. A romp through the zombie genre, fast paced and hugely enjoyable. Without giving too much away, the story isn’t in diary form, but I really loved the diary entries at the end, very effective.
Forgive Me, Father, For I Have….Burp. A tragic-comic tale, I loved the perverse perspective: the contrast of the church and the undead, communion and flesh-eating, made me smile throughout. Fabulous and great fun. Or am I weird?
The Overpass. Well constructed, its starts and ends at a superb pace, with some striking and well-drawn images.
I don’t really like rating stories – stories vary, and it’s very subjective; some elements of these stories are five stars, some aren’t. But all in all, I’d be disappointed if I hadn’t read this anthology, it’s a definite positive contribution to the pantheon of zombie literature.