If you were to read the reviews I gave for John Joseph Adams other anthologies ("The Living Dead" and "Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse") you would understand my reluctance on purchasing yet another collection edited by him. However after other positive reviews and my growing library of zombie fiction, I caved and bought his newest: "The Living Dead 2".
And fortunately it is an entirely different monster (pun intended).
Of the 44 short stories collected in this anthology, 22 were some of the best stories of zombie horror I have read.It should come as no surprise that the well known authors in here prevailed: Brian Keene's ("Lost Canyon of the Dead"), David Welington's ("Good People"), Max Brooks's ("Steve and Fred") and Robert Kirkman's ("Alone Together") works were outstanding but to me it was some of the lesser known, obscure and new authors on the block whose stories captivated me the most. Having already read both of Joe McKinney's novels ("Dead City" and "Apocalypse of the Dead"), the fact that his short story "Dating in Dead Town" was incredibly rich and entertaining was of little surprise to me. "Who We Used to Be" by David Moody and the disgusting, yet highly enjoyable "Zombie Gigolo" by S.G. Brown (a story that won 3rd place in the annual Gross out Contest in the 2008 World Horror Convention) take the reader into the mind of the undead, answering the questions of what the undead feel, think, and do.
With so many good stories, its hard to find the best works but I believe the best piece(s) ,for me anyways, comes to a 2 way tie between Gary A. Braunbeck's "We Now Pause for a Station Identification" and the fantasticly written and original "The Rapeworm" by Charles Coleman Finlay. The former, a radio broadcast by who is perhaps the last man on the planet, the later, a take on a zombie plague brought on by something from outer space.
The problem with "The Walking Dead 2" though comes in those other 22 stories and even those arent that bad when compared to some of the works from the first anthology. Where "Dead 2" really starts to loose it's readers comes at the end. Of the final 3 stories (All of which are probably the weakest of the bunch) the killer is the John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow piece, which is a real shame when considering Skipp is the grandmaster of all things zombie fiction. Unfortunately that story is so bizzare, so convoluted and completely horrible that it becomes the "Neuromancer" of zombie fiction (read my review of Neuromancer to understand where I am coming from). Couple that with the ridiculously boring "Category 5" , the completely strange (and Brian Keene-esque ripoff) "The Skull faced Boy" and the much too long "He Said, Laughing" and "The Living Dead 2" looses a very possible and much earned 5 star rating.
So is "The Living Dead 2" worth your time and money? Absolutely. Where else are you going to get 44 different takes on the zombie genre for only a measly 16 bucks. Sure a few of the stories in here are flops, but who knows, maybe you will like them. For any zombie enthusiast, I say this: "Buy it". If nothing else, it'll look good on your bookshelf.