Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Love them or hate them, zombies are everywhere. Everyone has their own take on the walking dead. Given the vast array of options out there, it can be a challenge to find one worth a read. Some are slow and mindless, while others will surprise you. Here are five zombie novels that don’t bite.
Day by Day Armageddon (Read our review here)
By J. L. Bourne
Day by Day Armageddon, by J. L. Bourne, is written from the author’s perspective of what he would do if a zombie outbreak occurred. The zombies are your standard slow moving dead with the contagion beginning in the Far East. While cliché, it is clear Bourne has studied the zombie classics and draws inspiration from them. The story is told in an epistolary format as a series of journal entries allowing for an immersive experience of what it is like to live day by day through the zombie apocalypse.
World War Z
By Max Brooks
Many list World War Z among the top ten horror novels ever written. The novel is a collection of survivor stories compiled by the narrator from across the globe. Combined, these tales tell of the undead contagion which almost destroyed humanity. It is the international scope of World War Z which makes the story so compelling. The novel makes us think, not just about what we would do when faced with the flesh-eating undead, but about our society as a whole. It serves as both a condemnation and celebration of our world’s many cultures and the people who contribute to them.
The Rising (Read our review here)
By Brian Keene
As with most zombie tales, The Rising maintains the notion of a world-wide pandemic in which the dead rise up against the living. The twist comes in that these zombies are not mindless automatons. They are inhabited by demons imbued with the knowledge of their hosts. They can speak, use tools, set traps …etc. Furthermore, the infection does not stop with humankind, but has spread to the surrounding wildlife. The Rising has appeal to those not-so-smitten with the walking dead, as the demonic element also fits within the cosmic horror and spiritual possession subgenres of horror literature. Several different storylines come together in one hell of a cliffhanger centered on the theme of faith.
Dead in the West
By Joe R. Lansdale
Dead in the West has been released as both a serial and a standalone novel. It is arguably the best piece of weird west fiction ever written. The story is a play on Matthew 7:12, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Here evil begets evil. Townsfolk hang an innocent Native American medicine man and kill his mulatto woman. With the man’s dying breath, he curses the town and allows a demon to enter his body. Now with the power to command the dead, the Indian begins his quest for revenge. The only thing standing in his way is a gun slinging preacher that goes by the name of Jebediah Mercer. Told in Lansdale’s signature straightforward style, Dead in the West bears all the hallmarks of horror literature while keeping with the traditions and settings of the old west.
By Cherie Priest
Cherie Priest is well-known for her take on the sci-fi subgenre of steampunk. In Boneshaker, she combines this subgenre with zombies to great effect. Set in Seattle, the story focuses on events following a great catastrophe in which a mining machine ran amok destroying the city and releasing blight gas. The gas gradually causes those who breathe it to become “rotters.” Areas of the city have been walled off to protect the residents from these monsters and the gas that creates them. Now, a mother must journey into the cordoned area to rescue her son. Priest world builds, adding both alternate history and technology to 19th century America. The result is a fantastic, but believable, setting for a distinct take on a zombie outbreak.