Posted on March 15, 2011 by Steven Dawes
Available at DriveThruHorror.com
“The last thing I want to believe is that we’re in some queer version of Night of the Living Dead”
I read the short novella “Dead Stay Dead” before I realized that it was the second story in the new “Zombie Feed” series from Apex Book Company. After a bit of research I found the short story “Asylum” was the first story released in the series, which also happened to have recently arrived as a reviewers copy book in my mail. Feeling kinda sheepish that I hadn’t done my home work before hand, I set out to read “Asylum” to cover my bases. And I’m glad that I did as this story was unexpectedly interesting to read and author Mark Allan Gunnellis got a lot of mileage out of a mere 80 pages.
The story is centered on several homosexual men who barricade themselves inside a gay bar when the zombie apocalypse begins. The main character Curtis is a twenty year old virgin from a small town and has gone out to a gay club in the big city for the time, at the urging of his very gay friend Jimmy. From here the story switches between several characters as they battle their personal demons as well as the zombies that have surrounded the club.
At first glance, this one sounded like it would be a dark comedy piece, and in less capable hands it may have turned out to be just that. However, Mr. Gunnellis treats the characters and subject matter with dignity and depth of character. These men are not the cornball gay characters you see on sitcoms (“Will and Grace” this is not), these are real people. Some of these men are unabashedly proud of their gay lifestyle, some of them are long term committed partners that are living their lives together like any hetero couple would, while others are haunted by the ignorance, hatred and oppression of homophobia they’ve dealt with all their lives.
Each of the characters had unique backgrounds which in turn made their traits and actions make sense, something not easily done in such short stories. While the theme of the zombie apocalypse isn’t treading any new ground these days, seeing it from the angle of a cast of gay men was a fresh take on the subject. In fact, me thinks that I detected a hint or two of the zombie apocalypse making a parallel on the ignorance and hatred of homophobia (similar to how “Night of the Living Dead” made a statement about consumerism).
While the subject matter didn’t bother me, I feel it’s only fair to mention that this story is very much for mature audiences only! Outside the ample amount of gore described (as you would expect in any self respecting zombie tale) the homosexual angle might prove to be difficult for some readers to get through. That being said, the erotic portions of the story were treated with respect and in fact added some extra depth and characterization to the story. These characters felt real to me and I believe that if given the chance, anyone can see past the “gay” aspect of the story and sympathize for these characters as the human beings they are. In my opinion, Mark shows good talent as a writer and did a great job spinning a unique take on the “people trapped in a building with zombies outside” storyline and I wouldn’t mind reading more of his work in the future.
Reviewed by Steven Dawes