REVIEW BY JOHN BODEN
I just finished reading this for the second time. I was first lucky enough to read it as a submission (one that we unfortunately passed on...during a very trying period at Shock Totem) The pass had nothing to do with the stories quality (I loved it then) but everything to do with the struggles we were having as a publisher and time frames. Luckily for the authors (and the readers) it found a home with Crystal Lake Publishing. All that said, in the essence of full disclosure I must warn you that this is in fact a "Zombie" tale. It is not, however, like anything I've read before. I plead for you to give it a chance, as the story here is so much more than that dreaded device.
Where The Dead Go To Die is set in a hospice, I don't recall it being given a name and that is unimportant. It is a place where the infected go for to pass their remaining time--the infection has an incubatory period that is anywhere from a month to years--and many of these people have lingered a long time. We meet Emily, a single mother and nurse starting anew with her daughter, Lucette after their own family was marked by tragedy. Her boss is a woman named Woods, who is all business-most of the time. We are introduced to Mama Metcalf, an elderly volunteer who is quick to adopt Emily and her daughter as almost surrogate family.
As we manoeuvre these dark and wounded halls, we see people doing their best to cope with the nightmare that is this virus as well as the protesters outside and the mostly hidden pain in their own lives. And this is well before the introduction of Robby, a young boy who was infected in a horrific manner and left on the hospice steps like an unwanted pet. His arrival sets in motion a series of event s that will forever change those involved and even a few who aren't.
I've been a fan of both of these writers for a while. Gunnells is a writing machine, churning out more stories than anyone else I know and I greatly enjoyed the fact that he and Aaron harmonized so well here. Aaron is another writer I consider myself a fan of and while I feel I could detect some of his prose in here, overall it was seamless. This story wears its heart on its sleeve. It proudly offers tears and tragedy but in a weird and dark way hope. Yes, it involves the undead but in a fresh way, and not in the forefront. I implore you to give this one a chance. Pretend you have no idea what it's about and just go in. I'm fairly certain you'll be glad you did.
Where The Dead Go To Die is available from Crystal Lake Publishing.