New Reviews

Are Zombies Officially Being Beaten Back to Death?


night-of-the-living-trekkies

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.

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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.

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

8 Comments on Are Zombies Officially Being Beaten Back to Death?

  1. Wow…okay I would have to say I am not the one to defend Zombie stories because there are so many of them out there. While that is true we do get some very good horror stories here that deal with psychological terrors and horrors as well as some good ghost stories. If there is someway or some book you want me to read let me know. That being said I do agree that zombies abound and how many times does a dead horse need to be beat (pun intended) before we realize it is dead ? Ah but tomorrow may well be the day when a thriller comes to you that sets you back and you just want to stay there and read that one…inhaling it like a breath of fresh air. It could happen…Chill out …as always…just me…Vitina…the old hippie

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  2. I must admit, I’ve gotten a little ‘zombied-out’ myself. I remember being one of the only kids who saw the original Dawn of the Dead in the theater and it was like I had some secret knowledge that no one else in my class could know. Back then, Night of the Living Dead was rarely seen on TV and nowhere near the iconic movie it would become later. The trick now is to look back and find out the exact point zombies jumped the shark.

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  3. Great article! The zombie phenomenon has baffled me a bit. It’s not because I’m squeamish. Nor am I particularly deep when it comes to my pleasure reading selections. This is the problem: zombies aren’t sexy. I don’t see how such a huge cultural phenomenon has grown up around a trope that has almost zero sex appeal. I’ve also run out of enthusiasm for vampires, but at least they were sexy.

    I wonder if the American fascination with the un-sexy zombie reflects our sometimes adolescent attitude about sex (the reason why one shot of a woman’s breasts gets a movie an R rating while a hundred acts of violence doesn’t necessarily).

    I wonder if zombies are as popular in Europe? Are the Swiss fascinated with zombies? Are there Lithuanian zombies?

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  4. Couldn’t agree more! I was really hoping that since nothing happened on 12/22/13 the apocolyptical trend would slip away quietly, no fuss, no awkward goodbye’s, just sneak out the back when everyone else is trying to establish the next “cool thing” as you put it. As for me, I love authors who aren’t afraid to re-vamp good old American/European folk tales with their own spin, tales like Sleepy Hollow or pretty much anything from Ireland. Maybe stories about cryptids like Bigfoot and The Jersey Devil? I don’t know, just kind of exhausted about so and so’s new “spin” on the classic Vampire, ghost, werewolf and Ghoul tale.

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    • appreciate the thoughts everyone.

      You know, the crazy thing is, I’ll take another rehash on the vamp/ghost/were/ghoul over the zombie any day, because at least those villains aren’t in FULL SWING right now. Vamps are obviously pretty exhausted, but I’ll welcome a really good ghost or or werewolf type of tale. Cages had some really awesome werewolf action going for it that reminded me it can be done pretty damn awesome by the right author. But zombies, over the last decade… just… wow at how traveled that path is right now. It’s so over-saturated that even the gems just blend into the others. Clines’ Ex saga should probably be a major motion picture franchise and a MASSIVE best seller. But it’s not, and I can’t help but think maybe some of that simply has to do with timing. I’ll be pleased when half my inquiries aren’t zombie related, I can say that with conviction.

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  5. Thank you. It needed to be said and I’ve been preaching it myself. Even though my first official book was a zombie story, and I thought I had an interesting take on it, I’m still disgusted by the amount of zombies there are today. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon. I even had a story place in a collaborative publication for zombie stories. When I got the review from the editors of my story in the book, they said it was the “same ‘ol same ‘ol.” Yeah, because EVERY ZOMBIE STORY has been done before, and to death. I’d love to see a swamp thing interest explosion, or a good werewolf story emerge, but zombies, and vampires are done for me. What’s even sadder is, nobody’s really coming out with anything NEW for us horror fans, as far as monsters are concerned. I wanted to send you a copy of my book for review but I didn’t at the same time, simply because it’s a zombie story. And that was before I even saw this article. Thanks again for pointing this out, it needed to be done.

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  6. Right on, Matt. I haven’t bothered picking up a zombie book in ages. I watched the first season of the Walking Dead, great effects…but I have no interest in following the rest of the series. My zombie bone is safely buried until further notice.

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  7. As for me, I’m just now getting around to zombies, so I’m not burned out. I got to sit back, watch a lot of good work pile up, and let others weed out the good from the bad. I’m just now playing The Walking Dead and watching the series. Just now finishing my first zombie novel (WWZ). And just now revisiting some classic zombie movies. So I’m far from burned out. It’s good not to rush to a fad — you can come back later and get some best-of lists, rather than wading in and trying to figure it all out yourself

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