I was given this anthology for free in return for a review, which I hope is helpful for other readers, and constructive for my fellow zombie-fan-writers.
Overall, this is a great zombie anthology, and I don’t say that lightly. If anyone has done the ‘legwork’ with zombie stories, trust me, it’s me. I’ve read countless zombie themed collections and this, by far, is one of the best. Generally speaking, the writing is of a good standard and the worlds of the stories are well established. Several of the writers use unusual protagonists that we rarely, or even never, see in this genre, which adds a depth to this collection that we don’t normally get to enjoy in a zombie narrative. Some writers have dared to challenge the usual conventions of zombie behaviour, and regardless of whether or not you think they’ve pulled off those changes, you have to appreciate anyone who introduces a new element to this beloved monster....
The anthology is let down a little bit by spelling and grammar mistakes. As readers, I think we’re generally quite forgiving of the odd couple of errors, especially when the story is great, but a bit more attention in this area would have boosted the quality of the book. Regardless, I highly recommend ‘Fat Zombie’ – not only to fans of the genre, but also to anyone who enjoys a good short story.
It’s one thing to write an entertaining zombie story that keeps a reader hooked, but it’s quite another to write a story in this genre that stands out and is memorable once the reader has closed the book. That’s no easy task, but several of the writers in this collection pull it off. My personal favourites are ‘The New Dark Ages’ by Stephen Kozeniewski, ‘Denial’ by Jay Wilburn, ‘El Caballo Muerte’ by Martin Livings, and ‘Perfect’ by Rachel Aukes. Hats off to everyone involved in this anthology, and a sincere thank you to the writers for giving us something refreshing in a world of ‘same olds’.
DENIAL – By Jay Wilburn
This is definitely one of the most original zombie stories I’ve encountered – perhaps the single most original, actually. It tells the story of a survivor with a difference. The writing lends itself very well to the plot – at first it seems a bit disjointed and confusing, which I initially found sort of irritating. However, you very quickly realise that it’s not sloppy storytelling; it’s brilliant, clever writing. Hats off to Jay Wilburn for this one. I adore this genre, but even I’ll admit that the sheer volume of stories within it can become a bit ‘samey’. This story is different and refreshing.
AWAKENING IN A DEAD CITY – By Timothy Johnson
This well-written story speaks to zombie fans in a particular way that you don’t often get. It’s like reading your very own thoughts about the zombie apocalypse. There’s not a zombie fan I know who hasn’t had the same conversation as the characters do when they’re in the coffee shop. The references (some intentionally blatant, some subtle) to the genre are a nice touch, and it’s refreshing to read a zombie story that’s set in our world. Too often, zombie stories feature people who, for some inexplicable reason, have never heard of zombies. This was a nice change and a fun read.
IN THE LAND OF SIRIAD – By Vincent L. Scarsella
The concept of this story is really interesting. However, I think its delivery would have been more effective with more emphasis on the plot and characters, and with less attention paid to descriptions that weren’t really relevant to furthering the narrative. I was dying to find out what would happen next but kept getting distracted by details that just didn’t seem important, so parts of it started to feel a bit tedious. It’s a cool story and I was impatient and wanted to get to the next bit!
I think this story would have benefitted from the ‘write what you know’ principle (for example, in terms of theme); I wasn’t sure what I was reading about. A bit of background into what motivates the main character would have made him more relatable.
Cool story, though it could have been tightened up in a few areas.
PERFECT – By Rachel Aukes
This is a great story featuring an endearing protagonist called Benji. Like Wilburn’s ‘Denial’, this short takes a slightly different approach to the genre, and it pays off. I was hoping for something with the ending that I didn’t quite get, though I think that just comes down to my morbid personal taste! I’d be interested in reading more about Benji, and am looking forward to reading more by Aukes. The writing is of a great standard and was a pleasure to read on several levels.
ON THE ROAD TO CHATTANOOGA – By Tony Sarrecchia
Good story with a great ending. It’s your average zombie tale in that it’s about a survivor on the road. He meets someone, there’s tension - you know - that old chestnut. What makes this one special are the twists that are thrown in - Sarracchia doesn’t overplay them. The suspension of disbelief that naturally comes with a zombie story isn’t abused in this regard. The ending is…. well I won’t ruin it for you… but it’s a good one!
PEER IN THE WOODS – By Zakary McGaha
This story gives us several interesting and typically unexplored perspectives in this genre (such as that of a woman who hates her child, for example). The attitudes and thought processes of the characters reflect the bleakness of the new world they live in, but all in their own individual ways. It’s not so much a story of underdogs, as a story about the types of characters that don’t usually make it into zombie narratives in the first place (this, for me, was the best thing about it). The only real criticism I have of this story is that it’s a bit too short - I wanted more!
PIECES OF FIRST! – By Michael W. Clark
I salute any writer that dares to make changes to the zombie’s motivations, and the concept introduced in this story is very interesting. I’ve read/seen a hell of a lot of zombie tales, but never have I seen zombies with the ‘rule’ they have in this one! The only downside is the number of spelling and grammar mistakes. There are quite a few and it can be a bit distracting, which is a shame because the story itself is so intriguing. Despite these errors, the actual writing is good, as are the character descriptions and the pacing. I hope that there’ll be a ‘Pieces of First’ Part 2, because I really want to read more about the world and the zombies in it.
EL CABALLO MUERTE – By Martin Livings
This story is about something other than the undead. The writer was able to say a lot about his protagonist in a very brief time, allowing the reader to really care about his fate. El Caballo Muerte has depth and thematic scope, and is really a very moving story, particularly for a short. Livings weaves the suggestion of fate, snapshots of love and strength, and subtle but beautiful metaphor into a narrative that’s circular to the main character. This is a perfect example of a story that is crafted, rather than just written.
ENDGAME – By Dan Rabarts
I didn’t know how to feel about this one, but I was thinking about it for a while afterwards so it clearly left an impression, which is good. This story draws parallels between the game of chess and the way one navigates through life in the zombie apocalypse. I enjoyed the structure, although sometimes, when referencing the game, there was a tendency to spell things out. I would have preferred it if the writer had allowed me, the reader, to make the link myself, rather than adding explanations. The zombie apocalypse is now one of the least original scenarios in storytelling, but the concept employed in ‘Endgame’ was most definitely unique, and added layers to the narrative. Just when I thought I’d predicted the outcome, Rabarts threw a curveball. A very clever and enjoyable read.
MR. SCHMIDT’S DEAD PET EMPORIUM – By Sally McLennan
This is a charming and funny, if somewhat creepy, story of a man who continues to keep himself in business during the zombie outbreak – though his business has changed post-apocalypse! No criticism comes to mind while reading this one; it’s well structured with a consistent pace and great characterization of the couple of characters that appear. Great descriptions, without battering us around the head with details, and a funny set-up. A fun read all round.
THE NEW DARK AGES – By Stephen Kozeniewski
My favourite short zombie story, not just in this anthology, but in general. I love this. It has creative and cleverly placed descriptions, is gripping right from the beginning, and is evidence of a wonderful imagination. Each detail you uncover about the situation is injected into the narrative with great precision, subtlety and wit. This is a delightfully horrific read, a work of truly talented storytelling, and the perfect tale to end the anthology on.
Purchase a copy here
Kayleigh Marie Edwards is a regular writer of articles and reviews for Ginger Nuts of Horror and Spooky Isles. A published short story and flash fiction writer, and a playwright. She has an MA degree in Scriptwriting, and though her strengths apparently lie in horror and comedy, she plans to expand into ‘drama’ in 2016.
She has spent the last year working as a family entertainer, host and compere for a holiday park, for which she was able to create events and write and participate in shows.
Her excellent horror comedy short story Bitey Bachman can be purchased here