Review written by Jess Peacock
Over the past several years, bookshelves have buckled under the considerable weight of apocalyptic horrors focused on the walking (or running) dead. As a result, there is a growing concern that the glut of flesh eating stories will ultimately warrant a backlash that could force the sub-genre underground, or worse, into becoming a self-parody. Fortunately, in the hands of creative people like Stephen Jones, zombies can still offer new and fresh storytelling opportunities for horror bibliophiles.
Jones, the winner of several Bram Stoker and World Fantasy awards, has assembled almost twenty authors to create a zombie themed novel that is less anthology and more epic tale of the possible end of humanity told through multiple mediums such as text messages, diary entries, twitter, e-mails, blogs, and medical reports. Surprisingly cohesive in its disparate structure, The Mammoth Book of Zombie Apocalypse recounts the yearlong zombie crisis as it explodes outward from a historic church in London, soon engulfing the rest of the world.
The opening of the book sets a surprising humanist tone for the rest of the novel with a man’s heartfelt letter of farewell to his mother before joining his wife in death. From there, everything from a blogger sharing his own personal film festival as the world goes to hell (Braindead, Bio-Zombie), to the journal of a biological researcher racing against time to find a cure to the pandemic, to the chilling transcript of the last broadcast of a Mexico City radio show, all lead to a surprising and rather unique twist that, upon reflection, reshapes many of the entries.
Not a perfect work by any measure, the 500+ pages, while indeed mammoth, often produces slow and somewhat uneven moments that would have benefited from some tighter editing. That said, The Mammoth Book of Zombie Apocalypse succeeds at creating an immersive experience that feels genuine in all of the various mediums it reflects.
Clever and smart, Stephen Jones has managed to add an original and fun take on the zombie sub-genre, with plenty of carnage, popular culture touchstones, and political subtext to appeal to a wide reading audience.