Reviewed by Mike Chinn
Death, bereavement, what happens after we die … these are all things that occupy a significant proportion of human thought. Of all the animals, we seem the ones most obsessed with life, death and the afterlife – creating planet-wide religions that revolve around little else. And Horror is, of all literary genres, most concerned with death; and living death; and un-death…
This anthology – Hersham Horror’s first step into publishing – is unashamedly about the one little thing most certain in life (apart from taxes). Sixteen tales, each with its own take on the big sleep: how it can be outwitted, how it affects the living, how it affects the departed. And a satisfying collection it is too, on the whole.
Stephen Bacon, Steven Savile & Steve Lockley, Adrian Chamberlin, Gary McMahon and Stuart Young all contribute wildly different tales which have at their core a common theme: the death of children. Dave Jeffrey’s tale is a gorily amusing zombie short – owing much to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Mark West supplies a camping trip that all goes horribly wrong. Zach Black’s drug and alcohol wasted protagonist finds a way to belong at last. RJ Gaulding gives us a hard-drinking, noirish private investigator in a story that throws a fresh surprise every couple of pages. Jan Edwards revisits that old favourite: a deal with death. Katherine Tomlinson goes for zombies of a cruise liner. Ian Woodhead looks at how the haves and have-nots fare during a zombie plague. Stuart Hughes has the long-dead haunting the dreams of the living. Stuart Neild’s two computer nerds dig up more than they can handle in true EC Comics style. Richard Farren Barber delivers an ambiguous tale of a DJ barricaded against another zombie plague … maybe. And Johnny Mains gives us a typically Pan Book of Horror style account of revenge and possession.
Not a bad one amongst them – though I found Bacon’s, McMahon’s and Young’s the most affecting. Pity they were all at the start of the book and not spaced out more evenly. Mine is a proof copy, so I imagine the occasional typo and dodgy bit of layout was fixed before launch. And I’m also hoping the strange practise of having the bylines in huge block type that dwarves the tiny, italicised story title is also fixed. It’s so wrong. Small niggles aside, this is a satisfying book from a new small publisher. I look forward to their next title, Alt-Zombie.