Posted on March 5, 2008 by Flames
Skin and Bones is the second installment in Permuted Press‘ series of zombie anthologies, The Undead. It’s very much a case of what you see is what you get–which, of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, providing you like zombies.
The anthology opens with one of the strongest tales, David Wellington’s Cyclopean. The over-used ‘zombies working 9 to 5, no one even realizes they’re zombies’ theme is employed, but only lightly. Cyclopean is a fast-paced, entertaining and original zombie tale with Lovecraftian overtones.
The Abbott and the Dragon is a strange but enjoyable tale. Saying any more than that would be giving too much away. It works wonderfully, and in ways that the reader doesn’t expect after the first page. Easily one of the stand-out tales in this book.
In The Wranglers by Eric S. Brown we see zombies take on the Wild West in a way that seems so natural, you wonder why you don’t see it more often. The zombie cowboys provide a short but sweet spin on the genre conventions.
Casual Friday by Matthew Shepherd returns to the ‘zombies in the office’ theme. Although it’s done better than some other tales in the same vein, it doesn’t save the story from being unoriginal. Humor saves Casual Friday in the end, but you can’t help but wonder what the author would have come up with if he’d tackled something that hasn’t been done dozens of times before.
Philip Hansen’s Agent Red is a fast-paced action piece. The reader follows a group of soldiers fighting their way through a horde of zombies. Again, this is very familiar ground, but luckily the writing and the characters are enough to save the story from being mediocre.
Joel A. Sutherland’s offering, Something Fishy This Way Comes, starts off promising. We’re introduced to the lippy teenage protagonist. However, he quickly proves to be too lippy, sailing through the realm of believability, far into the land of caricature. Because of this, the story’s potent metaphor about social alienation falls flat.
The highlight of the anthology, Eric Shapiro’s The Hill is vivid and disturbing. The imagery used is incredibly strong and the characters are engaging and sympathetic. An unusual and excellent story.
The Finger by Matt Hults provides some comic relief after The Hill’s bleak ending. The tale of two friends and their disgusting plan to get rich quick starts off with a great idea and some good humor. Unfortunately, the ending is weaker and less entertaining, leaving the reader somewhat disappointed.
For The Dead by Meghan Jurado provides an odd and depressing interlude. It saves itself from becoming an imitation of a well-known movie by directly referring to it, and then exploring the shared concept further. Despite being one of the shortest tales, it’s definitely one of the most effective.
Murray Leeder’s The Traumatized Generation shows us what could become of the nation’s children after a zombie apocalypse. Although his approach is not something that would immediately spring to mind, the story works, mostly due to the good characterization.
The reality TV parody Alive Eye For The Dead Guy by Ryan C. Thomas has a lot of promise doesn’t quite work out. There is plenty of comic potential, but it never really comes into its own.
Scott Standridge’s ’til The Lord Comes is one of the stranger stories included in this anthology. The author never lets you know what to expect, making this an odd but nevertheless satisfying read.
A. Kiwi Courters has what has to be the best name in the whole anthology, but her story Ravenous Angels doesn’t stand out as much. This piece could really shine with some more humor added. The ideas are original and potent, but the execution fails to do them justice.
Misfortune by Vince Churchill is a typical, competently-written story of survival in a world full of zombies. Up until the end, the piece isn’t impressive, but the conclusion surpasses expectations by not copping out.
The final story, the novella Skin And Bones by D.L. Snell, is difficult to comment on, mostly because it’s so strange. At times it’s confusing, disgusting, funny, and downright repulsive. The two main storylines take a bit too long to come together, and sometimes the confusion created works against the story. However, there are a good few horrific scenes, and a few bits and pieces (in the literal sense of the word) that will make the reader cringe.
Overall, the stories in this anthology are of good quality. This is recommended to all who haven’t had enough of zombie fiction just yet.
Review by Leah Clarke