Or is it? Is Appalachia as mysterious and wonderful as people say? Or does its enduring beauty hold something dark. Something dreadful. Something very hungry for our flesh. Can the people of the region stand up against the hordes of the Undead and thrive as they have thrived under other worst circumstances?
Appalachian Undead takes a look at the dark side of Appalachia, where the Undead walk, driven by old magic and worse, their hunger for us. Nestled in the safety of the hills, the inhabitants have thrived and adapted even to the worst of conditions, but can they survive against an army that never tires and never stops feeding? With new intriguing tales of the Undead, this anthology contains work by some of the best names in horror, including Jonathan Maberry, Gary A. Braunbeck, Tim Lebbon, Elizabeth Massie, Lucy Snyder, Bev Vincent, Tim Waggoner and many more. (Summary from www.apexbookcompany.com)
Appalachian Undead is true undead horror with a splattering of dark humor thrown in for balance. While zombies have the limelight, there is such a strong Appalachian tone that create a completely different feel to the anthology. Rather than the tried and true (and potentially tired) city/suburban zombie tales, this stories take place in the wilds and small towns of Appalachia, a world somewhat of its own. The stories run the gamut from helpful zombies who do required a special payment to the question of what happens when a woman is pregnant and the dead are walking.
In all honesty, I’ve read a plethora of zombie stories, be they novels, anthologies, or short stories. I’ve devoured them all. This one is an original. It takes the reader out of a comfortable, familiar setting (even with the walking undead, there still is a sense of comfort when one is dealing with familiar settings) and moves the reader into an environment that most people don’t know unless they have watched it on television. Some parts of this story actually put me in mind of My Bloody Valentine (the original). Mining, down home sensibility, and a community spirit pervaded that movie and this anthology. Added on top of that, characters that we can either identify or sympathize.
The stories these authors contributed each identifies a different part of the Appalachian community and those who live there. I appreciate how evident it is that each of the authors researched the location and implanted their characters directly into this location. When I first heard about this book, I commented that this might be a mix between Deliverance and zombies. I was so wrong and off base. This book brings an all new level of zombie lore to the table. It is something new, something refreshing.
There are 20 stories in the book. I’ve listed each title and the author below. I also included a brief summary or my opinion of each story. There are some very unique stories in this book, and I really think you all will be missing out if you don’t check it out.
WHEN GRANNY COMES MARCHIN’ HOME AGAIN by Elizabeth Massie
Grandma comes up with a special recipe for moonshine, but an unfortunate altercation with the competition changes the situation for everyone. Undead pets and chopped up animal parts make a memorable story.
SITTING UP WITH THE DEAD by Bev Vincent
A more serious story where two guys sit in a graveyard and wait for the dead to come out of their graves. Waiting for the ones you love and know to rise up from their graves brings a whole new level of pain to the zombie apocalypse.
COMPANY’S COMING by Ronald Kelley
Zombies are the new oppressed and one woman tries to stand up for a zombie couple and their child. The KKK has a new target.
REPENT, JESSIE SHIMMER! by Lucy A. Snyder
Lycanthropy, magic, and undead religious fanatics. Not to mention an undead crocodile. Seriously. An undead crocodile.
SPOILED by Paul Moore
What happens when a pregnant mother loses a baby in childbirth with the walking dead roaming around, closing in on the mother and her friend. Grim, sorrowful story.
BLACK FRIDAY by Karin Fuller
A diabolical Black Friday sales plan goes awry as a chemical to force people to not think and just shop goes too far. Maybe there is something to be said about blindly purchasing and eating people.
CALLING DEATH by Jonathan Maberry
This story just really brings the small mining town vibe. A cave in results in almost all of the associated miners to be trapped and die. They are trying to dig there way out, and they want to come visit.
TIMES IS TOUGH IN MUSY HOLLER by John Skipp & Dori Miller
It’s capital punishment during the zombie apocalypse. What better way than to slowly feed the wrongdoers to those they wronged?
RECKLESS by Eliot Parker
An alcoholic sheriff has an unsettling encounter on a back road. This story had me thinking a little bit of Return of the Living Dead. “Send more paramedics” indeed.
THE GIRL AND THE GUARDIAN by Simon McCaffery
A creature that most of us would not consider to be a “guardian angel” provides a little girl with an unexpected reprieve from a life that’s gone from hard to undead levels of difficult.
ON STAGGER by G. Cameron Fuller
A disease or sickness called Stagger makes the trials and tribulations of high school and puberty all that much more of a challenge.
LONG DAYS TO COME by K. Allen Wood
A black, oily rain brings about an undead apocalypse. A loving couple witness the rise of the undead and have to cope being locked in their house as the dead walk.
HIDE AND SEEK by Tim Waggoner
Zombies are more like a hive or a colony of ants. This story is from the view point of the “lead” of the colony who must learn to adapt to lead the other zombies in his group feed and grow.
SLEEPER by Tim Lebbon
A couple goes off into the wilds to find what the husband believes will be there sanctuary: a mine full of food, water, and supplies. Not everything goes as planned when the couple does not work together as a team.
WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN by John Everson
A corporate productivity analyst travels to a manufacturing site in Appalachia and finds an all new work force. He also learns that those in small towns definitely do take care of their own.
MIRANDA JO’S GIRL by Steve Rasnic Tem
Even zombified little girls need some love and tender loving care from a mother. This is a sad story to me. Neglect and abuse run rampant to both a live little girl and a zombie girl.
BEING IN THE SHADOW by Maurice Broaddus
A dirty cop is sent into Appalachia with his new partner on the hunt for a “Shuffler”. The hunt doesn’t exactly end the way anyone would expect it to, especially not the partner.
ALMOST HEAVEN by Michael Paul Gonzalez
A bus breaks down in the mountains and a group of zombies comes to the rescue. But what might be their ulterior motives and are the passengers safe?
TWILIGHT AT THE ZOMBIE GAME PRESERVE by S. Clayton Rhodes
Two buddies go hunting for zombies in a game preserve, but one of them has a darker purpose. Nothing works out as it is planned.
BROTHER HOLLIS GIVES HIS FINAL SERMON FROM A MAKESHIFT PULPIT IN THE REMAINS OF A SMOKEHOUSE THAT NOW SERVES AS HIS CHURCH by Gary A. Braunbeck
A preacher gives his last sermon to the throngs of the living dead who follow after him. I wasn’t so sure about the direction of this story at first, but then I really started to appreciate the tale.