Dead Science: A Zombie Anthology Paperback – April 30, 2009
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Like many recent anthologies, "Dead Science" shows just how varied such even a seemingly narrow topic as zombie fiction can be. "Dead Science" isn't just filled with the shambling brain eating dead, but scattered within are a few other types of zombies. "Dead Science" also has a dynamite illustration by Scott Story that serves as a wrap-around cover.
--Sadly there is no Introduction in which Fuchs gives us his manifesto in which he states his reasons and hopes for his anthology, so we jump right into the first "Dead Science" story which is "Sashimi Á la Morte" by a rising name in the horror small-presses, writer Lorne Dixon. Dr. Silas Drundtl is "convinced" by a trio of goons to accompany them back to their gangster employer so that Drundtl can revive him in case the gangster dies after he eats some cloned, and possibly poisoned dinosaur fish. The whole set-up is interesting, yet this is a zombie anthology and soon there will be dyings, revivings, much panic, much running around, much dying (again), and much raw red meat eating, you know the drill. Dixon is a good writer, he delivers the goods, this pulp story is entertaining, and was a lot of fun. Three and a half stars.
--Glen Held's "Arch Enemy" is next, and is a bit more fun, also deals with zombies and food. and looks at the start of a potential zombie outbreak from a working class smuck`s point of view. Friends Joey and Stan are working the late shift at a local Burger Doodle and they are closing up for the night when a customer shows up and starts banging on the, now locked, front door. Despite that the Burger Doodle is closed, he won't go away without getting something warm and juicy to eat. Disgusted with the ruckus that the customer is causing, they let him in and decide to get him a takeaway bag, however it's not good enough, and the customer causes more problems, and is eventually tossed bodily out of the restaurant. However, the customer ain't gonna leave until he gets his good warm meal. The story moves fast, has good identifiable characters, and has a morale dilemma set up for an ending. Good stuff. Four stars.
--Becca Morgan isn't even in high school. Let's kill her now so she can't grow up to be a genius writer. I'm joking. She's good enough in her story "Better Living Through Chemistry" already to make most of us wannabes look bad. A local kid genius, a Jimmy Neutron type gone very, very wrong, has invented a machine that belches out smoke, and the smoke turns all of those over eighteen into zombies. The good news is that there is no more homework; the bad news is that there is no more homework because the teachers are too busy eating the student's brains to collect any assignments anyway. The story has some nice, and sarcastic, characterizations, a quick pace, and zombies. Fun stuff. Four stars.
--The start of the zombie plague in Mark Onspaugh's story "The Decay Of Unknown Particles" is caused by a superconductor, the same thing that causes worldwide zombiefication in Brian Keene's "The Rising" duology. Here energy beings are let loose, and they take up residence in people's brains and zombiefy them. This is a quick, fast and interesting read, with a military setting. Fun stuff. Four stars.
--The anthology slows down for the next four stories. Adam J. Whitlatch's story "Blood, Spit And Aspartame" and Gina Ranalli's "Spark Of Life" both give us not really mad, but more like very annoyed and frustrated scientists. Whatever, in both, the scientists invent new substances that turn living or dead things into dead things that then become living things again, and both have kinda open endings. Not great stories, but okay stuff. Ranalli's scientist is a woman, and her story gets a demerit from me `cuz Ranalli kills off the lab assistant of which more could have been done with. Boo! Three stars for both.
--"Walking With The Dead" is by superstar zombie writer Anthony Giangregorio in which Richard Dearborn wakes up dying, and in desperation his doctor in the emergency room injects him with an experimental serum (now wait a moment, is this even ethical?) causing, well, you know what, there is bloodletting, baby eating, mommy eating, daddy eating, daddies eating mommies who are eating babies. Fast paced and gruesome, the story is however fairly predictable, perfunctory, and by the numbers; we've read it all before, and the whole thing follows the same formula as the Whitlatch and Ranalli stories. Three stars.
--Another zombie writing superstar, Eric S. Brown contributes "In The Blood" in which the world is being zombiefied by out-of-control nanites. The nanite maker decides that Detective Gregory knows too much because he knows that it's nanites that are turning people into zombies, and decides to take Gregory out. What about the person that told Gregory about the nanites in the first place? Aw, forget about it, why clutter up some gory meat eating with details. This doesn't even read like a story, but more like an opening excerpt from a novel-in-progress. It just ends as if Brown had simply run out of paper. One star.
--Weird war stories aren't rare anymore, but they are hardly common, so "No Man's Land" by Jason V. Shayer was a welcome read, and causes "Dead Science" to start to pick up steam again. During the First World War, those damn Hessians have come up with a secret weapon. They are turning soldiers into zombies and then siccing them on the allied troops. Robert Hogan would turned this idea into a whole novel and published it in one of the old "G-8 And His Battle Aces" pulps, in fact, the plot of this reads like it was influenced by the novel "The Patrol Of The Dead", only, ah, the Allies seem to be losing here. The Germans parachute some zombies into Allied lines, the zombies go crazy, eat some, turn others, and this short story basically deals with Andrew Middleton's fight for survival in the muddy Allied trenches. Could have been longer. For me, the whole idea was novel worthy. Didn't like the ending though, still, fast paced fun stuff. Four stars.
--It turns out that there are several strains of zombie viruses out there, and in an effort to find a cure, a research facility has been created. Dr. Gilbert is a totally flat-out mad scientist, and he has a free hand to do what he wants. Think Dr. Logan in "Day Of The Dead"; the problem with "Mr. Hanson Goes To The Lab" by Michael Cieslak is that he is so busy trying to make a point that the story suffers. There is no real ending here, just a good set-up for a story and then an abrupt termination. Two stars.
--In the future everything has gone to hell, and beyond, and in a research facility scientists are harvesting the memories of those past dead people who have been frozen in a cryogenic facility. Why is never made clear, but the dead don't like being woke up, and go on a helter-skelter rampage, killing most and trapping the few surviving scientists in one of the laboratories. It's all very competently done, but "Thanks For The Memories" by Gustavo Bondoni just didn't do anything for me. My bad, though I did like the ending. Three stars.
--This anthology ends with two of the best zombie stories out there, and are the two best stories in this anthology. In "Homeless Zombies" by Vincent L. Scarsella, Don Kaminski hits an old favorite bar and sees an old friend, Joe Reed sitting at a table with a beer. The trouble is that Reed has died six months ago. "Homeless Zombies" is more dark fantasy than horror, and reads like a "Twilight Zone" married to a Matheson or Bradbury story. Kaminski tries to find out how Joe Reed can be walking around, living in his old house, and drinking beer in his old bar, but is also still dead. A great story with a twist ending that would have made Serling proud. Five stars.
--"The Valace Standard" by Ryan C. Thomas is a science fiction story set in a future so dark that the only way to escape it is through one of the state sponsored suicide stations. This future was partially caused by a brilliant mathematician who has helped a wealthy businessman take over the world through his labor-saving machines, and in doing so has created a world wide ghetto. "The Valace Standard" story is just filled with anger, and Thomas shows us a man who is willing to put aside his own morals, turn a blind eye for his own personal reasons, for personal gain, and who ends up losing everything anyway. An alien race seeing what we are doing decide to raise and inhabit the dead suiciders from the suicide stations and kill everyone. This is about the longest story in the book, and might be worth the admission all by itself.
In the end, "Dead Science" is a good anthology full of new authors (Held, Morgan), upcoming authors (Ranalli, Dixon), and established authors (Thomas, Brown, Giangregorio), and at least half of the stories here will appeal to all horror readers, and not just zombie fans.
Like most anthologies, not all stories are for all people. Some of the tales don't stretch any boundaries and have predictable results but several of the authors did a bang up job of coming up with something really creative and different.
Special mention goes to Becca Morgan for being someone pre-high school aged that came up with a solid story. I was really surprised when I read her bio and found out how young she is. If she keeps up the writing she will have some serious chops once she reaches adulthood.
My two favorite stories had to be "Mr. Hanson Goes to the Lab", which packs a nice little wallop at the end that totally surprised me and "Thanks for the Memories", which left me wanting more from the author about the archaeologies and other scientists trying to dig into a past others are trying to keep buried. Several other stories really did entertain and only a few didn't really impress me all that much. Overall, this anthology was enjoyable enough despite my desire for more than the thirteen stories that filled its pages.
*on soapbox* What is really irking me lately about finding fresh zombie horror is the amount of editing that is going on with stories and anthologies that seem to just want to get out as fast as possible to cash in on the current zombie craze. I do realize this anthology has been out for some time, and that I'm rating the kindle version, so not sure if the actual published piece is better: it is most irritating, though, when I find words out of order, extra words added or forgotten to be taken out, or misspelled words (the highest indignity to any published work) I have to wonder what the editor did? *off soapbox*
Though it's all a matter of taste, I would have to say I really enjoyed the last three stories "Thanks for the Memories," "Homeless Zombies," and "The Valace Standard" the most. Before getting to these though, I had to wade through amateurish writing that had potential, but I think needed a few more rewrites to be successful. In one story, there were so many analogies like, "a baby shot out from between her legs like a baseball fired from an automated pitcher," that I thought I was reading a bad high school English assignment.
If you can stand bad editing (again, kindle version) and amateurish writing (for the most part) that does have some potential, then it's not an entirely bad read.
Includes several new young authors. Some new twist on the old Zombie genre.