Written by: Matt Molgaard
At the moment I’ve got 21 physical copies – not including already assigned novels – in the review queue, awaiting coverage. 10 of them are zombie novels. In the past few weeks we’ve discussed World War Z, Necropolis Now, Cages and Ex-Heroes, to name just a few. If any of those titles are unfamiliar to you, take my word: they all toy with the undead. I’m surrounded by zombie madness, and at this point, as engaging as some of these works may be, the subgenre has begun to feel like a broken record, perennially repeating the same tired tune.
It’s becoming tough to manage.
The fact that nearly half of the books currently awaiting coverage from HNR promise more undead business isn’t exactly promising. If anything, it’s a little disconcerting. It feels (I know I’ll run into a few surprises, mind you) as though I’ve got 10 novels waiting, and I already know every last story. The fact that I haven’t been able to open any of these titles yet means nothing. It isn’t too difficult to predict the events of a zombie novel. Corpses will shamble about these pages, attacking hapless victims, who will in turn transform into mobile carcasses themselves once their flesh has been pierced by decaying walkers. A group of survivors will battle to outsmart these creatures in a post-apocalyptic setting; one will feel compelled to jot down his thoughts. A loveable personality or two will meet the teeth. Some strange mutation will surface in a bid to mimic creativity. Yada, yada, yada…
That’s what zombie novels offer me personally these days. The same thing time and again. And believe me, I’m not out to knock anyone who chooses to tackle the subgenre. There are a lot of extremely talented authors dabbling in the reanimated. Brian Keene’s written some highly entertaining zombie works in recent memory. The aforementioned Ex-Heroes is highly enjoyable. David Wellington, Joseph Nassis, Colson Whitehead, Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall… all noteworthy talents who’ve worked up some enjoyable tales. But that doesn’t change the fact that, at the end of the day, there isn’t a huge world of difference in any of these creators’ works.
Is Night of the Living Trekkies relatively unique and entertaining? Absolutely. Is it profoundly different from any title I’ve mentioned thus far? Well… not really, and that’s the problem. There isn’t an insane amount of room for creativity on this branch of the horror tree. That shortcoming proposes a serious problem when a major portion of submitted works hitting the mailbox are fueled by hordes of hungry cadavers.
Getting excited for a zombie story is a bit like getting excited for a morning bowl of cereal. We’ve all sat down at the table to dip the spoon in the bowl too many times to count. No matter what the brand of cereal, or how tasty it may be, it’s not exciting beyond the age of five… when marshmallows still hold some strange allure.
Zombies have become mundane. It’s time to move on to the next “cool” thing, because – despite how popular The Walking Dead may be right now – they’re not very cool at this point. The shock factor is gone. The surprises are becoming far less frequent. The storylines are typically very similar.
When stellar authors are producing tales that feel mediocre, or average, simply because the story is so familiar, there’s a problem. And, to be honest, I’ve never really seen a trend work its way into a frenzy in this fashion. We see trends surface in art constantly. Most of those trends however, enjoy a brief pinnacle point before relinquishing the throne to another new fad, which in turn enjoys a spell at the top, before the next best thing again pushes its way into the spotlight. And the cycle continues on.
The zombie cycle has (in my personal opinion) unquestionably run its current course. Will the undead inevitably find a way to rise to the top? You bet. Zombies aren’t going anywhere. However, I think it may be time for something refreshing, and (for me) that means a little vacation from the rotting. Let’s leave the dead in the ground for a while. They’ve earned the right to rest… at least temporarily.