Author(s): Various (Anthology format)
Publisher: Severed Press
Publication Date: 2010
This book differs from previous zombie books that I had read in that it focusses purely on undead animals, often wreaking havoc upon mankind. Presented through twelve different stories ranging from decomposed, deranged baboons to infection spreading mosquitoes it provides an alternative read for the zombie fan who maybe getting tired of the same old apocalypse scenario. Without being able to rely on a literal visual stimulant the authors need a strong and descriptive writing style and thankfully all were able to deliver, without the limitations of bad CGI or having to show the creatures it gives the writers a licence to run wild with their imagination and this, for the most part is successfully done allowing the reader to form a vivid picture of the creatures described and the carnage they often created.
As with all anthologies the quality does vary slightly, thankfully however I can’t say a single story fell below mediocre with almost all being good to excellent. The first story (Monkey House by Tim Curran) certainly raises the bar from the off with a highly addictive, brutal and oddly compelling story focussing around reanimated and decomposing baboons which was definitely written for an adult audience. With this story setting the benchmark the other stories would certainly have to try hard and thankfully for the most they do not disappoint with only one story of the twelve found lacking. A pretty good success rate for an anthology. The majority of the stories are 15-25 pages long and as a result are easily digestible either as a quick read or in one longer session with natural breaks although I found that one good story would often lead me to keep reading right the way through to the end of the next and in this respect I can certainly say that it contains some addictive stories that you will not want to put down (or in the case of the stories by Curran, Wedd and Pinkerton that you wish would continue).
Throughout the book the writing style and focus (also their penchant for describing gore and violence) naturally changes however this does not prove disruptive to the flow of the book, something the publishers have obviously given thought to and as such allows the book to flow and the reader to flow from one story to the next as I often did. Another strong feature of the book, is that all the authors in such a short amount of time manage to imbue the characters in the story giving us, the reader, some insight to their character and their mannerisms and this is no easy feat when we consider the short story format they are operating in.
There is very little, if any repetition in the ideas of the authors and this was to the benefit of the collection overall and meant that I never felt that I had already read the story before, although one or two stories did seem adapted to fit the nature of the book (such as animal attack stories as opposed to zombie animal stories) but this is a minor gripe and does not detract from any enjoyment to be derived from either the individual story or the book as a whole.
Zombie Fear Factor: ****
As an anthology the stories and the fear levels vary, although the actual basic premise of zombie animals itself is inherently scary. Every animal in this anthology has one consistent characteristic in common…they want to hurt you! What lends itself to a lot of these stories are that they maybe everyday animals (pet dogs, horses) that we know, care for and even trust that are one minute looking to be petted and the next attempting to devour us although these stories also cater for more exotic creatures (from folklore or even escaped from the zoo or the wild) and so really the message to be had is that no one is safe, no matter where we live. These animals may be coming for us, any of us if we are not vigilant.
Zombie Behaviour: **
This is a tricky one to gauge as how would a zombie animal react? The Resident Evil series may provide one clue but this book covers such a variety it hard to compare. However, they do all crave flesh (or in the mosquitoes case human blood) although their speed and agility are not really affected too much by the decomposing state of their bodies in general. Although in one story the animals sexual urges remain and this is interesting and leads to the question can a dead animal (or a human zombie for that matter) get an erection? Is that possible as it would surely depend on blood being pumped around? For this question, and making me think about it I will have to deduct one mark.
Overall, I only gave two stars as the only consistent features they have with the zombie lore that we all know and love (by which I am referring to Romero) is that they crave human flesh and are unwaveringly persistent.. This is a tricky one to measure as without maintaining their speed and animal traits many of these stories would fall flat.
Zombie Threat: ***
Once again this is story dependent with some stories posing more of a threat to mankind than others. Although only in the final story, SWOT are the animals able to turn humans into zombies and the very nature of how this occurs is truly terrifying as it potentially may spell the end for a great deal of mankind. Meanwhile, not through zombification but almost a form of mummification (in Why The Wild Things Are) also pose a threat to us. However, certain stories may only provide certain threats to the population numbers of small towns or areas and as such once they are dealt with (assuming they are dealt with) will be nothing more than a footnote in the local paper.
Gore Content: ****
This is down to certain authors and their take on the story but thankfully on the whole there is enough to keep the gore-seeking reader happy. The vast majority of the authors describe their putrefying and maggot oozing bodies in great detail allowing the reader to build a vivid picture in their mind of the scene but some authors go one step further detailing the exact demise of the human victim. This is done through a mixture of blunt, crude language and a strong command of the human language allowing the exact tone to be set as flesh is desiccated, eyeballs gouged and even heads severed from shoulders.
Overall Quality: ****
This book is for people looking for something different from their usual zombie fix and have an open mind when it comes to animal attack stories. As mentioned earlier no story quality drops below average with the vast majority being good and a few being exceptional and worthy of reading regardless of your opinion on zombie animal stories. The length of the stories is about right allowing for maximum impact although I would not mind if Loss Of Vector was actually expanded such is its potential. Considering the price that this book retails at, there is no reason not to pick it up as either a quick fix on a train journey or as a longer more substantial read. It wont be for everyone but it certainly is something worth taking a look at.