Mondo Zombie edited by John Skipp
Artwork: Alan Clark
Trade Hardcover: $35.00
Publisher: Cemetery Dance
Reviewed by Nickolas Cook
Okay, so ten years is a looooong time to wait to sink your teeth into another zombie anthology. But when you’ve got half of the genius zombie-editing duo known as Skipp and Spector doing duty, even ten years is worth the wait.Take a look at the table of contents page. The names alone should make you hungry for its bloody, pulsing contents. And when you find that not one of the stories is anything less than brilliant and respectful to the Romero-esque vision of a living dead Hell, then you know you’ve got something close to a ‘new classic’ in your hands.
The authors’ takes on the zombie end world theme in Mondo Zombie are many and varied. The internal cover blurb says it all “samurai zombies, wrestling chainsaw zombies, political zombies, sex with zombies, heartbreaking zombies, hardcore zombies, celebrity zombies, wannabe zombies, zombies in love, zombies in pieces, zombies in power, over a world turned to dust…”
With “the rising” of renewed interest in zombie fiction, Skipp brings together some of the genre’s best, but also manages to throw a variety of new voices into the mix, all of which most certainly hold their own against the veterans of horror.
There are stories of gory, knee slapping hilarity alongside tales of emotive brilliance. There’s even previously unpublished stories from two of the genre’s masters whom have passed on: Richard Laymon and Robert Bloch. Reading them reminds one of the heyday of horror, and what a master can do with so few words.
Some of the highlights for me?
Caitlin R. Kiernan’s “Two Worlds. And In Between” (dig that awesome borrowed title from The Sisters of Mercy!) was an exceptionally gruesome take on the end of the world, as seen through the eyes of a pair of very lost Goth young adults. I admit it: I’m a sucker for her work, novel or short. She has such a textural power in her words that I was actually a nauseous by story’s end.
Adam-Troy Castro’s story of a zombie penis, “From Hell It Came”, was just good B-movie fun- maybe one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read. He hits the over-the-top buttons with abandon and takes no prisoners.
As does the great (and where the hell have you been?) Del James with “Eye-Gouge”, a story of chainsaw welding zombies that makes you want to take a hot shower.
Dana Fredsti’s “You’ll Never Be Lunch In This Town Again” is Hollywood satire at its best, as a young director reassesses his real priorities as tinsel town collapses around him and his dwindling cast and crew.
(That's me! Isn't that cool?!)
John Skipp & Marc Levinthal’s “God Save The Queen” does more than justice to their adaptation of Clive Barker’s 1993 graphic novel partnership with Steve Niles, “Night of the Living Dead, London”. That ending is pure sublime beauty.
Robert Devereaux’s “Holy Fast, Holy Feast” is the best literary take on the concept of infinite possibilities I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. His skill in weaving and bobbing the multiple parallel stories is stunning.
Douglas E. Winter really digs deep and opens his soul in “The Zombies Of Madison County”, a tearjerker of a tale that examines the concept of lost true love.
Lisa Morton’s “Sparks Fly Upward” takes on the political/religious topic of abortion in a world of the living dead and limited resources for its survivors.
Brian Hodge’s “Naked Lunchmeat” is a drug-addled junkie’s prayer- something Hunter S. Thompson and William Burroughs would have loved. What will be the drug of choice in the living dead future? As usual Hodge makes it all look so simple, but the power of his style is deceptive. This guy is a master of words and image and this story will haunt you.
And M. Christian’s “The Buried And The Dead” is a nasty little ditty that leaves no hope for humanity.
But this by no means delineates the other stories as less than great. Let’s put it this way: I finished this almost 500-page book in less than a day. This is gore, and blood, and all things zombie that we’ve been waiting for. The anthology manages to encompass all of the various schools of style in horror- splatter, erotica, quiet, humorous, slipstream, and some I’d even be tempted to classify as Bizarro. Editorially speaking, finding such a range, with such quality, seems easy, but it isn’t. If there was any doubt about how well Skipp does solo, let this collection end all future uncertainty. This is the anthology your children will be slavering for in ten years’ time. This is classic zombie fiction as its best.
My only complaint is about Alan M. Clarke’s art. It’s good, but there’s not enough of it to really standout, something the publisher might want to re-think in future anthologies, especially one with stories so good that they each deserved their own art plate.
Bottom line: Skipp and Cemetery Dance Press deliver the goods in Mondo Zombie. But do us a favor, guys … try not to wait another ten years for the next one, huh? Some of are very hungry, indeed.