Posted on September 28, 2010 by Eric Pollarine
Available at Amazon.com
Anthologies are a sordid sort of crapshoot. Admittedly, I am not normally a fan of crapshoots, or really gambling of any sort. It doesn’t come as some sort of moral high ground or religious stance against lady luck; it just isn’t my cup of tea. So when I got the chance here to do a review of Elder Signs Press’s, “The Best of All Flesh” which was edited by James Lowder, whose earlier works are some of THE seminal Ravenloft and Forgotten Realms works. Needless to say I was both excited-as all things zombie leave me feeling somewhat elated, and yet very, very skeptical. I have read the Permuted Press outings, and I have also read some of the newer compilations which have been released in the last five years, as all things “Zombie” seemed to be just the right thing for the failing publishing industry.
The funny thing is that I always seem to find, at the very least, one or two stories buried within the confines of the books, that makes me feel fairly good about the purchase and the time spent on actually reading the books, but with “The Best of All Flesh, I was happily surprised by the quality of the stories chosen. It is, however to be fair, an anthology of stories submitted to previous anthologies, so the “best of” feel and title was certainly something that Mr. Lowder and the guys at ESP worked very hard and succeeded in presenting.
The stories range from your more traditional post apocalyptic survival horror fair, to the slipstream sort of surreal nightmare world where all things living and dead seem to come together in the most humorous and disturbing of circumstances. Case in point on the humorous tip, Jeremy Zoss’s hilarious “Electric Jesus and The Living Dead,” where we see a lonely and acne plagued teenager find his salvation and his self confidence in the form of a plastic plug in Jesus statue. It is possibly one of the funniest stories that I have read in quite a while and has some fantastic dialog between the teenage protagonist and the statue. Continuing on the slipstream/bizarre front would be the original, and I mean truly original piece of work from Michael Jasper, “Goddamn Redneck Surfer Zombies.”
But really, when we read survival fiction, especially those of us that read zombie survival fiction, we are looking for the human element as well as the gore. This is above all, what makes the subgenre one of the best to explore the day to day emotional hiccups and situations, the ones in which humanity trudges through to it’s destiny for good or ill, in the face of unspeakable terrors. And the one story, which I would say embodies the quest to see through the darkness and into the light of the human condition, would be Rebecca Brock’s “Night Shift.” It is a powerful piece of short fiction and a wonderful tale of both revenge and justice.
All in all I would say that “The Best of All Flesh,” doesn’t leave you feeling disappointed. The book covers all the bases, which again to both ESP’s and Mr. Lowder’s credit; they have done so, superbly. They have achieved an anthology, which for those of you who are like me, or those of us I should say; who sometimes feel cheated after purchasing an anthology, either due to the haste of the publishing company to push out a “hot” item or due to lackadaisical editing and story selection. leaving the aforementioned one or two gems to cuddle up with what is mostly the “Best of a group of semi famous or hot authors trunk stories.” No, Elder Signs Press have assemble a great group of authors, a fantastic editor, and what is more important , some of the best pieces of short zombie/survival horror published in the last decade , leaving this reviewer feeling that maybe there are still people, writers, companies and editors,who are commuted to pushing the boundaries of the living dead.
Review by Eric Pollarine