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It’s the celebrity wedding of the century, set in an undisclosed, remote location, with no access to wifi, cell phone reception or the outside world. But the dream wedding becomes a nightmare when, one by one, the guests are brutally slaughtered by a serial killer who brands his victims with a hashtag.
Coming to you mostly alive from the land of the living, I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.
Welcome to this week’s issue of The Fright Stuff or In Which Jessica Deals With Her Pandemic Anxiety by reading post-apocalyptic zombie horror books. Because 2020 might be the year on fire, but at least there aren’t zombies. (Yet?)
Bonus points to everyone who recognized the reference in the title and give a dark chuckle. Yes it is I, here to ruin beloved childhood films.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
Alternative pandemics in which things could actually have been worse, take one. As the plague which caused the zombie apocalypse finally wanes, America is busy rebuilding and reclaiming lands overrun by the dead. What is left of the nation’s government is operating out of Buffalo, but they have their eyes set on a bigger prize: Manhattan. The tip of the island, south of Canal St, has been liberated, but even in Zone One there is still clean up work to be done. That’s where Mark Spitz comes in. He’s part of one of the civilian teams charged with eliminating the most docile of the remaining undead. But while the job itself is supposed to be easy enough, Spitz isn’t just slaying monsters in the street. He’s also battling them in his head, assailed by memories of his battle to survive the outbreak and struggling to reconcile himself with the devastated world he now inhabits. And when things start to go belly up in Zone One, he once again finds himself chest deep in the blood and ruin of the end of the world.
Feed by Mira Grant
Feed is the first novel in Mira Grant’s zombie-tastic Newsflesh Trilogy. Once again, the rider on the pale horse is making the rounds. In trying to cure humanity’s every ill, from cancer to the common cold, a terrible virus was created that spread unchecked. It took over bodies and minds and turned ordinary people into ravenous monsters obeying a primal, fundamental command to feed. 20 years after the virus devastated the population, Georgia and Shaun Mason are chasing the truth in a post-apocalyptic world. Who was responsible for the event now known as the Rising? How did it happen that something meant for good caused so much destruction and death? But when they discover the dark truth behind it all, Georgia and Shaun find themselves faced with an even more fraught situation: the truth will out, but getting it out there might just kill them.
The Living Dead by George Romero and Daniel Kraus
When it comes to zombies who else do we turn to but the father of modern zombie tale? There is no denying that George Romero forever changed the zombie narrative, and without him some of our favorite undead adventures on film or page would not be possible. His passing in 2017 was marked with great sadness by the whole horror community. So when Daniel Kraus, a talented horror author in his own right, was tasked with completing George Romero’s last work – the unfinished The Living Dead – the buzz was, understandably, massive. And most reviewers will agree, Kraus out did himself and in doing so did justice to Romero’s legacy. The Living Dead begins, as zombie stories do, with a body that won’t stay dead. And since zombies are a bit like the rodents of the undead, their numbers quickly spread. Romero and Kraus’s novel follows several simultaneous stories through the incipient apocalypse – an African American teenager and a Muslim immigrant battling the undead in a Midwest trailer park, a death cult taking shape on a US aircraft carrier, a lone news anchor broadcasting to a world that might no longer be listening, and an autistic federal employee compiling data against an unlikely future. Who will survive until the end, and what the end will be, only time will tell.
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
In a crumbling, dystopian Toronto, young mother Ti-Jeanne helps her grandmother heal the people who live inside the barricaded city. The rich and privileged abandoned the inner city, blocking off the roads and retreating to the surrounding country side. Inside the walls there is no electricity, no modernity – the inhabitants have rediscovered older ways of living, growing food, bartering for goods, and healing through herb lore like that practiced by Ti-Jeanne and her grandmother. But when the rich outside the city start preying on those inside, harvesting their bodes for organs, Ti-Jeanne must embrace an ancient power to face down threats from both without and within the city walls. Even knowing how high the cost might be.
Bonus link: CBC Radio’s IDEAS Radio for the Mind ran an episode called “The Coming Zombie Apocalypse”, which featured Hopkinson as a guest. You can listen to the hour long program on the CBC website and I highly recommend that you do! It is both fascinating and horrifying.
Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth
If like me you’re seeking catharsis in the form of worst case scenario narratives, make sure to check out this new list of Post-Apocalyptic book recommendations over at Book Riot.
On Episode 55 of Dead Headspace, Gemma Amor, Laurel Hightower, and Cina Pelayo guest star to talk about their forthcoming anthology We Are Wolves, which you have heard me tale about before and which I am SO excited about.
The Midnight Society has announced that it is crowdfunding Volume II of The Midnight Pals! If you missed out on Volume I, or are just excited to get your hands on more campfire hijinks from your favorite hypothetical gathering of horror authors, make sure to get your contributions in. The deadline is in mid-December!
As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.