How do you tell a new story about Zombies? We are – appropriately enough – overrun with them, it seems, with even uninfected stories manifesting the undead whether we want them to or not. They’re on the TV, in our books, games, and comics, and along with the hunting for fresh brains, they’re also hunting for fresh ideas. Unlike brains, those ideas seem hard to come by, as the current pop-culture infection has been around for a while and seems pretty resilient, so it is a brave survivor that claims to find something new in amongst the carnage. However a new anthology from KnightWatch Press, Sunny, With a Chance of Zombies, aims to do just that.
The forward, written by editor Dion Winton-Polak (full disclosure: Dion is a contributor to the Geek Syndicate Site and has been a guest on my Dissecting Worlds podcast) emphasises the problem with more zombie content. It’s so prevalent that many small press horror anthologies specifically ask for people to avoid the scourge of the walking dead. So the thesis of Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies quickly becomes one of being different, and given the title, perhaps a little bit more upbeat than the nihilism that so pervades the genre. I’m not going to have the space here to go through story by story, but yes, on the whole I think it manages it.
It took me a couple of stories to see it, but it soon becomes apparent that the strongest stories in the volume are the ones that deal with “life, with zombies”, rather than the usual tales of brutal, arbitrary death and fleeing survivors. These are characters with livelihoods and lifestyles in a world full of the undead, but a world that has made an accommodation with the undead, and a new sense of normal. So you have Zombie races, for example, or people running a diner in a survivors enclave. Many of the other stories have a twisted domesticity to them, and in many cases even the darker stories are shot through with a dark, wry sense of humour.
Like any other anthology I think there are weaker, and stronger stories, and the theme I’ve mentioned above doesn’t carry through them all, so at times I wasn’t sure I was reading too much into what may simply what tickles it’s editors fancy. There are few stories that feel more traditional in content, where the ending of the story is too in-line with genre tropes without an interesting enough twist or perspective shift to keep the meat fresh. Its not to say these are bad stories – they aren’t – but they’re harder to pick out of the thronging horde.
As I said earlier, I don’t want to go through this story by story but I will stick my neck out and say that my favorite three (of 12) are Run Rabbit, by Louise Maskell, Sacrifice, by Sarah Doebereiner and Wolf’s Bane, by Mark Best. So where does this leave us? Well if you’re a big fan of Zombies, and all that they infect, you can do a lot worse than Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies. If you’re looking for something different, you should find something here as well. If you’re so over the Zombie thing, well, I suspect the title (and cover) should warn you off so I won’t have to!
Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies is available through Amazon now. KnightWatch Press also have a stall at the EdgeLit Festival, Derby this weekend (11th July) where it will be available for sale.
GS Rating: 3.5/5
GS Reviewer: Matt