Book Review: John Joseph Adams’ The Living Dead

Posted June 13, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: John Joseph Adams’ The Living Dead

The Living Dead


John Joseph Adams

It is part of the , , , Dead in the West, series and is a horror that was published by Night Shade Books, Sky Horse Publishing on September 1, 2008 and has 504 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015

First in The Living Dead horror anthology series with thirty-four tales about zombies in some way. Most are gruesome while a couple are sweet…yeah, who knew you could call a zombie tale sweet…

Those in which I haven’t written anything, I simply didn’t read as I was too fed up with reading so many incomplete, unfinished, confusing stories. Attempting to be fair, it’s possible that I simply haven’t read enough zombie/horror stories. Perhaps these examples are typical of that sub-genre.

In 2009, The Living Dead was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology.


“Those Who Seek Forgiveness” (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #0.25)
“Deadman’s Road” (Dead in the West)
“”Skull-Faced Boy” (Skull-Faced #1)

The Stories

Dan Simmons‘ “This Year’s Class Picture” started well, if somewhat confusing, and as Simmons revealed more and more of Miss Geiss’ world, you just wanted to run screaming into the night. Miss Geiss has such resolution and hope and all seems so hopeless.

Kelly Link‘s “Some Zombie Contingency Plans” is about a kid who gets caught up in some stupid actions and pays for it in a big way.

It was a rather irritating story as it meandered about, tightened up towards the end, but then just dumped us off with few clues as to what happened.

Dale Bailey‘s “Death and Suffrage” made me think of Eileen Wilks’ Death Magic in her World of the Lupi series with the zombie interference at the voting booths. The concept of the campaign manager coming up with the saving ploy was good, but I certainly never grasped why they all thought it was so successful. It was almost like Bailey merged two stories and didn’t worry too much if it made sense or not.

Sherman Alexie‘s “Ghost Dance” was terrifying in its vengeance! A racist cop whose coward of a partner commits an unspeakable act only to find that their karma catches up right quick and only a lone FBI agent who “sees” everything that happened. Not a particularly happy ending.

David J. Schow‘s “Blossom” is just sick although it does have a strangely satisfying twist at the end. It’s a dinner date that goes wrong for first one then the other. A very confusing story that left me with lots of questions.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman‘s “Third Dead Body” was just nasty with its own particular twists. Both a lesson in not going off with strange men (difficult when you’re a hooker) combined with a good Samaritan who provides a list along the way with a twisted sort of mission of…something. Nice ending if you can survive the bit just before.

Michael Swanwick‘s “Dead” is another sick one showcasing corporate greed and a headhunter who sees nothing wrong with the dead…uh-uh…nothing wrong at all.

Darrell Schweitzer‘s “Dead Kid” is a classic tale of a school bully and his gang with the fellow student who is attempting to fit in.

Jeffrey Ford‘s “Malthusian’s Zombie” was good with government conspiracies and illegal experiments. One neighbor meets another who tells tall tales…he thought. Quirky twist at the end.

Susan Palwick‘s “Beautiful Stuff” was one of the sweet ones with a zombie turning the table on the politicians trying to use him. Just keep your shiny things on hand…

Clive Barker‘s “Sex, Death and Starshine” has a series of unexpected events with its own sweet ending. Weird, but sweet. Actors are preparing for opening night with Twelfth Night and it’s rather hopeless until an unexpected woman steps up to provide the necessary sparkle. Somehow she also provides the appreciative audience.

David Tallerman‘s “Stockholm Syndrome” is another nasty one! How quickly man becomes callous—makes me think of Kristallnacht in World War II where neighbors didn’t come out against what the Nazis were doing. In this particular world, zombies have taken over the world and Tallerman provides a vignette of two neighbors’ attempt to survive.

Joe Hill‘s “Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead” finds old lovers catching up when they meet as extras on George Romero’s set when he’s filming Night of the Living Dead. I can certainly empathize.

Laurell K. Hamilton‘s “Those Who Seek Forgiveness” finds Anita Blake coping with a grieving widow in the beginning of her career. It certainly shows why Anita and other necromancers came up with some of their safeguards!

This is before she meets Jean-Claude or any other supernaturals.

Norman Partridge‘s “In Beauty, Like the Night” is quite vague and definitely leaves you hanging at the end. A good sort of hanging in that the truth of it is too awful for words as paranoia and fear have reared up and wrought hysteria. WTF was Nathan thinking??

Brain Evenson‘s “Prairie” is just weird. The story is weird, the writing is weird with its odd sentence construction enhanced by the made-up words…

Our paroch of late has taken to baptizing all we encounter, tallying their particulars on wound scrolls before they are…

…he counts the names, phrases aloud before us the petitions he will employ…

There’s almost a biblical vengeance to the journal-like entries. It’s just a blip from a very confusing story.

Hannah Wolf Bowen‘s “Everything is Better with Zombies” is just plain confusing. It’s another blip that jumps in several different directions. It could be children’s overactive imaginations, misinterpreted reality, who knows.

Stephen King‘s “Home Delivery” is just plain sad as it tells of an undecided woman who finally meets the right man and is expecting their baby when the world turns upside down.

I had rather high expectations of this. Hey, it’s a Stephen King. But I still don’t get the significance of why the home delivery is such an important concept nor why Maddie couldn’t tell Dave what she did.

Douglas E. Winter‘s “Less Than Zombie” is a take-off of Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero. I have no intention of reading Ellis’ if it’s anything like Winter’s version. I’m vacillating between wondering just how dumb his characters were and their callousness in causing life to imitate a movie they saw.

Lisa Morton‘s “Sparks Fly Upward

George R. R. Martin‘s “Meathouse Man” is so sad with its tale about love and its fickle promise as Greg Trager searches farther and farther afield for a live woman to love him. A sad end for him.

Joe R. Lansdale‘s “Deadman’s Road” is the perfect horror as a deputy charged with returning to Nacogdoches with an accused criminal agrees to wait on a preacher so he’ll have company to help him with his prisoner. It’s the preacher who insists on taking the cemetery road at midnight for he is charged with cleaning up evil. Good story with an abrupt ending.

David Barr Kirtley‘s “Skull-Faced Boy

Nancy Kilpatrick‘s “Age of Sorrow

Neil Gaiman‘s “Bitter Grounds” is an odd combination in which a man fleeing his life helps a stranger, Professor Jackson Anderton, who himself disappears. The good Samaritan then takes over the stranger’s life, at least temporarily, taking the professor’s place at a conference in New Orleans where he presents the professor’s paper on the coffee girl zombies of Haiti and leaves you to draw your own conclusions.

Catherine Creek‘s “She’s Taking Her Tits to the Grave

Adam-Troy Castro‘s “Dead Like Me

Andy Duncan‘s “Zora and the Zombie

Poppy Z. Brite‘s “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves

Will McIntosh‘s “Followed

Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg‘s “Song the Zombie Sang” is bittersweet with a life lesson in it for the music student carried away by the master’s performance in concert.

Nancy Holder‘s “Passion Play

Scott Edelman‘s “Almost the Last Story by Almost the Last Man

John Langan‘s “How the Day Runs Down

The Cover and Title

The cover is unequally divided into a shambling horde of zombies staggering on a sienna ground against a yellow sky while the lower, taller black band at the bottom showcases the sienna-to-orange title followed by a list of some of the authors in yellow.

Well, the title is accurate enough as this anthology is all about The Living Dead.