Title: The Living Dead 2
Editor: John Joseph Adams
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Release Date: September 14, 2010
You know those boxes of assorted chocolates given as a last minute hostess gift around the holiday season? Usually to your great Aunt Ruth who is hosting this year’s family dinner because you can’t remember her stance on wine but you are pretty certain chocolate is a safe bet? That is until she smiles demurely at you, thanking you for the gift but ever since she developed the diabetes twenty years ago she can’t handle candy anymore. Then she sets the box of chocolates out on the coffee table as a not-so-subtle reminder as to why your brother who brought the goat soap gift basket great Aunt Ruth can’t stop going on and on about will always receive a Best Buy gift card from her while you end up with yet another package of tube socks.
What does this have to do with an anthology of zombie stories?
Well, like that box of assorted chocolates, anthologies tend to have a few choice pieces, the chocolate toffees and caramels and peanut butter cup stories. Then there are the decent ones, the chocolate covered peanut stories, followed by the stories that make you wonder why they were included, the chocolate covered raisin stories.
Man, this review is making me hungry.
Where was I? Oh right, anthologies are the assorted chocolates box of the literary world. For most of my life, I just accepted that for every chocolate caramel story in an anthology, I should expect to find a few chocolate covered raisin and prune cream stories.
John Joseph Adams has shown me it is possible for an anthology to be nothing but chocolate caramels. The Living Dead 2 is that anthology.
I didn’t think it was possible to top Adams’s first anthology, The Living Dead. That was an anthology that brought a credibility to the zombie apocalypse genre I had not seen before. Plus, sequels generally tend to be pale reflections of the first. Adams was aware of this, and set out to put together a second anthology of zombie apocalypse stories so brilliant it surpasses being just a great selection of zombie stories and hits the mark for being a great selection of short stories, period.
He was successful. The Living Dead 2 is a brilliant anthology. While the theme of the forty-four stories is the zombie apocalypse, each story holds up on its own as a well written piece and not a sloppily thrown together tale riding on the bandwagon of the latest pop culture trend. It is true that zombie fans will enjoy The Living Dead 2, but literary fans would also do well to pick up a copy.
“Danger Word,” by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, is a heartbreaking tale of family sacrifice and survival that left me in tears. “We Now Pause for Station Identification,” by Gary A. Braunbeck, is a story told by a radio DJ to an audience that may or may not be alive. “Twenty-Three Snapshots of San Francisco,” by Seth Lindberg, is a piece of prose narrated by a man as he describes the photographs he took using a film camera of the moments leading up to the zombie apocalypse.
There are big names included in this anthology. Max Brooks (World War Z, Zombie Survival Manual) provides a tale of heroics with a twist. Cherie Priest (Boneshaker, Dreadnought) creates an alternate, steampunk reality where the zombies have taken over. Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) delivers a tale of one man and the things he has done for love.
I loved Molly Brown’s “Living with the Dead,” a tale of life with the undead who have no interest in consuming brains, but won’t say no to a slice of chocolate cake. “Where the Heart Was,” by David J. Schow, provided a trailer park look at zombies and love.
One thing I really enjoyed about this series is the setup of each story. Just like The Living Dead, each story is set up with a brief biography about the author and an introduction to the story that makes me nostalgic for Tales from the Crypt. I could almost hear The Cryptkeeper cackling as I began the opening paragraph of each tale.
John Joseph Adams loves a well written story. He loves zombies. These truths remain apparent in The Living Dead 2. This is a book that every zombie aficionado needs to have in their collection. This is a book that every bibliophile needs in their collection. This is the book that give zombies the credibility they deserve.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars