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Run away screaming
on 3 January 2011
The title of this review points to a key piece of humour in the book, linked to its title. Other than that I won't spoil one of the funniest entries in an otherwise very good anthology.
Edited by Stephen Jones it ties together a collection of short pieces from such writers such as Michael Marshall Smith (he does the opening piece, I would have liked to see more, his dark and dry humour would have suited more tales here), Tanith Lee, Scott Eldeman, Kim Newman, and more. The contributions are a mix of journal entries, blogs, email and even Twitter correspondence, letters, minutes, transcripts of broadcasts, and others, exploring a range of very contemporary and older communication forms. This works well, held together by the central framing narrative, which is based bang up to date in the middle of a vain-glorious and failing Coalition government whose recent efforts include a massacre in Trafalgar Square as well as an ever worsening recession. To lift the nation's spirits and present a distraction, they plan a massive 'Festival of New Britain.' Part of this is the redevelopment of a London cemetery and the accidental unearthing of a plague pit, and a 'reanimating' scourge is unleashed.
The horror and bleakness is pretty much unrelenting. Most of the narrators end their tales or communications defeated, i.e. eaten or worse. It's leavened by some great humour, and the mix of different narrators and styles works well. I very much enjoyed a Policeman's duty logs as he first discovers the unfolding horror in its early stages. Also, a teenage girl writes a journal as 'the Death' hits London. There are some truly shocking moments and scenes of undead horror here. The anthology gets to the heart of why this genre is so popular. That is, the horror of something worse than death, the horror of seeing loved ones bestially transformed, and the sheer Hell of the numbers of the undead as they start to outnumber the living. How long could you survive, living on your wits, staying sharp, not letting your guard down for a second?
The anthology loses a star for the jarring tone of the final two entries, where the whole things suddenly slips into spoof territory, and if previous stuff wasn't so strong, they would have wrecked the whole thing for me.
But on the whole, this is a good addition to the zombie genre. This one, I would say, is pretty much for genre fans. There is no boarder cross-over appeal. It's too self referential and knowing for that.