5 books on zombies

By Yvonne Zipp
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For horror fans who can't bear to watch as defanged vampires and cuddly werewolves make goo-goo eyes over some girl with shiny hair, there's still one monster who resists taming: You will never catch a zombie mooning pretentiously over his true love. Nor are the reanimated likely to be cast in a love triangle with a werewolf with overdeveloped abs. (There's the drooling, and the shambling, and the whole eating intestines thing.) And these undead don't -- praise George Romero -- sparkle. No less an authority than Stephen King has proclaimed that in a quest for world domination between zombies and vampires, zombies win. And this Halloween, there are enough new zombie books to fill a morgue, with the horde invading everywhere from Tokyo and Sweden to Lake Wobegon. (You might not be able to romanticize a zombie, but you sure can parody it.)

1.After his wife is killed in a car accident, David can't imagine that anything worse could happen. Then she opens her eyes. Across Sweden, anyone dead less than two months is waking up and going home, and their families and the government have no idea what to do with the former corpses. Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist is a master philosopher of the horror genre, and in his thoughtful, almost gently written Handling the Undead (Thomas Dunne, $24.99), the evil doesn't come from the recently deceased, but from the living.

2. For those in a less melancholy mood, Night of the Living Trekkies (Quirk; paperback, $14.95) offers plenty of wit with its alien-infested corpses. A "Star Trek" convention has been overrun, and former-soldier-turned-bellhop Jim Pike is the Klingon-weapon-brandishing survivors' only hope. (Turns out the final frontier wasn't as benevolent as Gene Roddenberry had planned.) Authors Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall know their Enterprise lore. Instead of "Beam me up, Scotty" (an utterance that never came from the mouth of Capt. James T. Kirk), the characters say things like "Bring on the braaaaains! I'd rather deal with the undead than a bunch of Babylon 5 fans." They opine on how the philosophy of "Star Trek" is incompatible with zombies, and they find inspiration in the Kobayashi Maru test, in which Kirk argued that there's no such thing as a no-win situation. But it's not all high-minded: Plenty of conventioneers get eaten, and the authors swipe a couple of gags from "Galaxy Quest" and find a way to incorporate Princess Leia's metal bikini from "Return of the Jedi."

3. Zombie completists need look no further than The Living Dead 2 (Night Shade, $15.99). Editor John Joseph Adams has put together an impressive collection of mostly chilling new work from big names like Kelley Armstrong, Max Brooks, Robert Kirkman and David Wellington, as well as critically acclaimed new entrants Mira Grant ("Feed") and Bob Fingerman ("Pariah"). "The Living Dead 2" has every form of zombie match-up you can imagine: samurai vs. zombies, pirates vs. zombies, the Peace Corps. vs. zombies -- heck, there are even undead dinosaurs.

4. Since the success of Seth Grahame-Smith's "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," monsters have been mashed into everything short of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." So it's no surprise that the undead have invaded Minnesota in The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten (Night Shade; paperback, $14.99), where all the mellowing agents in a Heinz bottling plant won't be enough to save the Norwegian bachelor farmers. (A college student who studied "The Zombie as Metaphor" is no substitute for radio detective Guy Noir, but a military-trained female diner owner offers some hope that lutefisk will one day again reign supreme at church suppers.) Possibly the most horrifying part of this parody is the author's pen name: Harrison Geillor. While I'm not sure how many "Prairie Home Companion" fans are into zombies, or vice versa, it's a fitfully amusing pastiche with one wicked twist: the fine, upstanding serial killer who's outed when all the bodies buried in his cellar attack.

5. Therapy can't help Seattle couple Sarah and Dave, but fighting for survival saves their marriage. Jesse Petersen's not-very-romantic comedy Married With Zombies (Orbit; paperback, $7.99) combines plenty of gore with self-help tips like "Put the small stuff into perspective. It's better to be wrong and alive than right but eating brains." The scene in which Sarah beats up a zombie with a Dr. Phil book and finishes him off with the toilet seat that Dave left up (again!) is pretty funny, but the comedy never reaches the level of "Shaun of the Dead."

Zipp regularly reviews books for the Christian Science Monitor.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company