"Nights of the Living Dead" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Edited by Jonathan Maberry and George A. Romero
2017, 400 pages, Fiction
Released on July 11th, 2017
A standard review of an anthology starts with an overview, offers short synopses of standout stories, and closes with a statement that more or less tells readers about the overall quality of the book. This, however, is not at standard review. Why? Because Nights of the Living Dead is not a standard anthology. For starters, both editors are horror superstars and the names on the table of contents read more like a list of the best dark fiction authors currently working. Also, the stories presented, not to mention the introduction, add up to a collection that reads like a love letter to Romero, zombies, and the genre itself.
As mentioned above, this will not be a standard review. Instead of doing one of those, I’ll give you 10 reasons why you need to buy this thing the second you’re done reading this. Let’s get started:
- The anthology kicks things off with a heartfelt introduction by George A. Romero, the man responsible for zombies as well as the careers of many of the authors in this book.
- One introduction wasn’t enough, so Jonathan Maberry follows Romero with a second one that makes two very clear points. The first puts to rest an old debate: “As far as the entire fucking world is concerned, Romero invented the zombie genre.” The second makes a powerful statement about some of the biggest names in contemporary horror fiction: “We wouldn’t have the careers we have had it not been for Night of the Living Dead.”
- John Skipp is the father of splatterpunk. John Skipp is a bizarre/action/weird/dark fiction maestro. John Skipp is responsible for many things in the genre. John Skipp is a filmmaker and a force of nature, and that they dedicated this anthology to him warms my heart.
- There are plenty of reasons why zombies refuse to die (sorry, had to do it!), and most of them are here. Zombies tell us things about culture, fear, and humanity. That a book like this can come out and quickly become a success is a testament to the staying power of the undead.
- In the pages of this anthology you’ll find stories by Joe R. Lansdale, George A. Romero, David J. Schow, John Skipp, Jonathan Maberry, Chuck Wendig, Brian Keene, and many more.
- I love the fact that smart writers rejoice in gore while also using the undead as vehicles for larger themes, and this happens plenty of times in this anthology. Zombies are used for vengeance and help people learn things about themselves (Lansdale’s contribution is a perfect example of a fun, fast-paced romp in which a young woman learns a lot about what she’s willing to do in the face of the apocalypse).
- Cohesion. So many themes anthologies lack it. Not here. This is a celebration of Night of the Living Dead and the narratives belong to the space and time of the/preceding the events of the film. Sure, every author brings their unique vision and voice to the project, but there are enough cohesive elements to make this an outstanding collection that will surely show up in best of the year lists in five months.
- Variety. Houses and farms and government buildings and the zoo and small towns and roads and houses and cars and jails and…you get the point. If you can think it, there’s a story in here that deals with it in the context of a zombie outbreak. There are stories anchored in pure horror and survival, tales in which there’s murder that doesn’t involve zombies, narratives in which the undead allow for vengeance, and entries that deal with the turmoil of human emotions when death is too close.
- Quality. Few anthologies manage to bring together stories that more or less share the same level of quality. That happens here. I won’t lie to you and say that every single story is unforgettable, but more than half are the kind that make you take a break before reading the next one.
- Love. Yeah, love. This was a professional project, but more than the money and the bragging rights that came from being attached to it, there is a sense of love that permeates it. The anthology is a love letter to Romero and what he created, but it’s also a love letter to the time in their lives when the authors first saw Night of the Living Dead.
This collection is a celebration of the man and the film that started it all, but also a recognition of everything that came after, of every movie and comic and novel. This is a celebration of horror and the careers that had their start after seeing the classic film. Simply put, if you’re a fan of horror, this has to be on your shelves.
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