Book Review: History Is Dead: A Zombie Anthology, Kim Paffenroth, ed. (2007)

July 16th, 2012 11:27 am by Kelly Garbato

History Is UNdead!

four out of five stars

Zombies have coexisted with humans since before the birth of h. sapiens – that is, if we’re to believe the team of “crack historians” behind History Is Dead: A Zombie Anthology, edited by Kim Paffenroth (2007). And why not, when believing is such bloody good fun?

While at least half of the twenty stories found in History Is Dead take place in the past 200 years – with America and Europe proving popular settings – the rest stretch as far back as the Pleistocene epoch. (“This Reluctant Prometheus,” in which members of the homo ergaster species become infected with zombie-ism after consuming an infected wooly mammoth, is one of my favorites.) Zombies are credited for bringing humans the gift of fire, rescuing a Viking kingdom from insurrection, inspiring budding horror author Mary Shelly, and administering vigilante justice to Jack the Ripper. They appear on Civil War battlefields and in East End slums. They infiltrate the United States government in their quest for gooooold. (An “Indian” curse gone weird. Don’t ask.) The Great Fire of Chicago? Started by zombies, the first of which was created when Biela’s Comet rained a mysterious green rock onto (and into) Pat “Paddy” O’Leary’s Aunt Sophie. Zombies, it seems, are all around us.

As always, anthologies are difficult to review, since you’re apt to take a shining to some pieces more than others. Overall, History Is Dead is a quick, enjoyable, entertaining read – perfect for a morbid Saturday afternoon at the beach. I polished it off in under a week, which is near-record speed for me. Though they share a common theme, each story in this collection is unique. In some, zombies make a brief, even ancillary cameo – while in others they serve as the story’s protagonists. A bloody, gory, over-the-top collection of shoot-‘em-up zombie tales this is not.

In fact, it could be argued that zombies aren’t even the scariest monsters to be found within the pages of HISTORY IS DEAD. Take, for example, “Junebug” – which comes with a major trigger warning – in which a preacher (at the End Times Church, natch) uses the looming zombie apocalypse as a pretense to sexually enslave one of his young parishioners (June or “Junebug” of the story’s title). After several months of living with him – with her parents’ permission, ostensibly to babysit his children due to his wife’s illness – she becomes pregnant from the repeated rapes. Cast out by the preacher, she finds no solace from her family, as they blame her for “seducing” her rapist. June and her sole defender, brother Ethan, ultimately meet a gory end – and yet, even at their “worst,” the reader has more sympathy for the zombie siblings than for their human victims.

I found a similar pleasure in “Awake in the Abyss,” which finds Jack the Ripper’s “canonical five” victims – Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly – along with a sixth woman, narrator Nelly, awakening from the grave in order to avenge their deaths…as only zombies can. I bet you never thought you’d find yourself rooting so enthusiastically for the zombies, eh?

(This review also appears on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

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One Response to “Book Review: History Is Dead: A Zombie Anthology, Kim Paffenroth, ed. (2007)”

  1. Tami (Vegan Appetite) Says:

    Hi Kelly! Pop on over to Vegan Appetite when you get a chance, please. :) You won!

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