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Otto Penzler (ed.) | Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! (Vintage)

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Thinking in bulk is a wise approach because Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! is such a mix of the well-known and the obscure, the masterful and the tedious, that it's difficult to say much about it in general.

 

832 pages. Vintage/Black Lizard, 2011. $25.00 (paperback)
 
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! is the latest short story collection edited by Otto Penzler, proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop (www.mysteriousbookshop.com) in TriBeCa (New York City) and creator of numerous such anthologies. The first thing to note about this doorstop of a book is that it certainly offers value for money: the price may seem steep at $25, but when you consider that this collection includes 57 stories, that comes to less than 50 cents per story. To look at it another way, $25 for this collection of 832 pages works out to about 3 cents per page. Thinking in bulk is a wise approach because Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! is such a mix of the well-known and the obscure, the masterful and the tedious, that it's difficult to say much about it in general. However, I can say this: while this is probably not the greatest possible collection of zombie stories, it contains so much that it will be a good resource for almost any fan of the genre.
 
What I like best about Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! is its utter lack of pretension. I'm guessing that most zombie fans, like myself, look to this type of story for a good time with any higher literary or intellectual value being an unexpected and added bonus, and this collection seems to have been created in that spirit. It feels more like a collection of pulps than the kind of book you would expect to find in a library, being printed in dual columns on paper which feels pretty close to newsprint and featuring black and white illustrations that would not be out of place in a mid-century (or earlier) "amazing stories" type of magazine. It's not clear why these particular stories were chosen for inclusion, but I suspect that being out of copyright, or otherwise available at low cost, played a role in their selection. Among the classic writers included are Guy de Maupassant ("Was it a Dream?"), Edgar Allan Poe ("The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar"), and H.P. Lovecraft (three stories) while more modern authors include Stephen King ("Home Delivery"), Robert Bloch ("Maternal Instinct") and Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg ("The Song the Zombie Sang").
 
Each story includes a biography of the author and some of these provide at least as good reading as the stories themselves. For instance W.B. Seabrook, author of "Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields" began his career as a journalist in Georgia before receiving the Croix de Guerre for his service in the French army during World War I. He later published books about Haiti, Ivory Coast and Mali (heavy on tales of sorcery, cannibalism and magic) before befriending Aleister Crowley and adding the occult to his list of topics. Seabrook even published a book about the year and a half he spent in a rehabilitation institute being treated for alcoholism, making him an example to writers everywhere—except for the conclusion of his life, a suicide by drug overdose. The story itself is a fairly ordinary "told to" tale which the author presented as collected folklore rather than composed fiction. It's an OK read, nothing fantastic but worth your time especially if you've never read anything like it before. Besides, if you don't care for it you can just move on to one of the 56 other stories.
 
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! goes on sale on September 20 and is available for pre-order from Random House and from online booksellers such as www.amazon.com. You can see the complete table of contents on Random House website| Sarah Boslaugh
 
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