Book Review: The Living Dead by George Romero and Daniel Kraus

This is an epic tome of a book, coming in at 600 pages. The definitive zombie book, mostly written by the definitive zombie writer/director – George Romero. I say mostly written, because he died before he could finish it, so his wife and long time collaborator searched for someone who would be able to pull all of the threads together and complete what George had started. Not an easy process as George’s wife found plot outlines kept separate from the book, and Daniel found a couple of chapters of a previous version online written over 20 years earlier. Daniel Kraus has published many books in his own right as well as collaborating with the writer/director Guillermo Del Toro.

The book is almost a written version combining all six of the zombie films, starting from the very first re-animated corpse to the death of the dead. There are many different characters in the book with lengthy sections for each one, which then becomes single chapters in the second part of the book, and then ultimately some of the characters meet up in the land of the living in the final part of the book. Obviously, not all of the characters survive, and some of them get bumped off quite early on. The ending is also spot on, with humans reverting to type.

There was always a depth to Romero’s films, which was often ignored. As with Clive Barker, the monsters are not always the monster. Zombies are just doing what zombies do, in that they eat human flesh. The real monsters are always other humans. This depth of character has the time and space to evolve incredibly well within this book. You really start feeling for the characters, hoping that everything will work out for the best.

There is also a great deal of humour within the book, as well as a few hidden ‘Easter Eggs’. Daniel Kraus is a long time George fan and one of the hidden eggs I found was a reference to the characters from George’s 1981 film Knightriders, which has nothing to do with David Hasselhoff, but is a film well worth looking out for. Additionally there is the introduction of zombie chickens in the book.

Zombie books and horror books are fairly niche so I won’t recommend this if you’re not a fan of the genre. However, if you love a good horror novel then this is an absolute must read. I gave it 5 out of 5 on Goodreads.

Book Review: The Living Dead Anthology

480 pages of short stories all about zombies. What’s not to like? Who among us hasn’t wondered if we would personally survive a zombie apocalypse, or what the news coverage would be like. Maybe Anthrax Island would be the perfect place to hide out.

Edited by John Joseph Adams this is an absolutely huge collection, with some of the really big hitters from the horror and sci-fi genres, including Stephen King, George R R Martin, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. While these are some of the better stories, often with anthologies the best tales are from previously unknown authors, of which for me there were many.

No two stories are the same, and they all tackle the subject matter in differing ways. There are a couple of regular tales, although very well written, it is the the more unusual ones that really grab your attention. It is hard to describe the stories individually as I took my time with this anthology, often reading a couple of them each week. There was only one story in the whole book which I struggled with and gave up on, which is a testament to how good this collection is.

Over the years I’ve read many zombie books and watched many zombie films, notably the George Romero series of films (and the book which I haven’t got round to reading yet), or the book World War Z (apart from the title the film bares no resemblance to the book in the slightest). I loved the Dawn of the Dead, the original, but felt that the science behind the remake didn’t hold up. Zombies can’t run. Obviously the whole science behind zombies doesn’t hold up at all, but you do need some realism. This is one of the reasons why I love a good horror book or film, they are pure fantasy, make believe, while crime novels purport to be real.

Anyway, I gave this anthology 5 out of 5 on Goodreads and I have been looking out for some of the authors who I hadn’t come across before.