Z. Among the most monstrous creations of our imaginations, the zombie terrifies, with its capacity to pursue its prey, to run it down, exhaust it to surrender, unrelentingly.
In this title in the acclaimed Future Chronicles series of speculative fiction anthologies, fourteen authors confront the nightmare, that horrific mirror of ourselves that pursues us with untiring hunger.
The Z Chronicles features stories by bestselling authors Hugh Howey (Wool), Jennifer Foehner Wells (Fluency), plus twelve more of today's top authors in speculative and science fiction.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review.]
The Z Chronicles is the latest in Samuel Peralta's ever-growing series of The Future Chronicles anthologies. While I've only read a couple of the previous collections, this zombie-themed antho is far and away my favorite of the bunch and represents one the strongest over-all anthologies that I've ever read.
There is a mighty fine assemblage of authors here, and a number of superb stories that, on their own, more than make the price of entry completely worthwhile. And, as with any good anthology, this has given me a nice starting point to delve deeper into the works of authors that are new to me. In fact, after reading several of the stories included here, I immediately hopped onto Amazon and bought a couple titles from writers like Ann Christy and Deirdre Gould. Following here, then, are a few thoughts on my favorites - consider this a LIGHT SPOILER WARNING and feel free to skip down to the bottom if you want to be completely blind going in.
Christy's story, VINDICA, kicks of The Z Chronicles in grand style with a story of insurrection in an underground habitat built for the rich. It's a strong stand-along story, but also provides a great taste of the author's Between series.
KAMIKA-Z by Christopher Boore, and Will Swardstron's Z BALL are also very strong efforts, with the former featuring cyborg zombies unleashed upon the US during a war with China. This one is told across three viewpoints of a single family struggling to survive. It's dark, but the characters are richly developed and their own unique voices are allowed to shine across each chapter. My only complaint is that I really wanted to see more of these cyborg zombie things! It's such a cool concept, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Boore expands on it in a larger work soon.
Z BALL casts the zombie uprising through the bright lights of American sports. This one is a wonderful outside-of-the-box approach to the zombie apocalypse and the way society responds and adapts to changing circumstances. And, just for good measure, it's all wrapped up in a nice shell of conspiracy and paranoia.
Hugh Howey and David Adams play around a bit in Howey's own I, Zombie world. GLORIA is a story of a woman coming to grips with her own zombiefication, while Adams presents a similar story of a transgender individual who has been zombified. Both of these showcase a great bit of internal character development as they grapple with their post-death existence that finds their healthy mental states locked inside bodies they can no longer control thanks to the ravages of the plague.
Peter Cawdron's FREE FALL is another excellent piece that begins with a bit of a sci-fi bent as an astronaut returns to a decimated Earth. The opening bit of this story is a terrific slow-burn as the spaceman attempts to establish contact with Houston Ground Control only to slowly realize things are not quite right. It slowly morphs into a more traditional zombie-survival story, one that is really well done. Fans of the comics Y: The Last Man and The Walking Dead should find quite a lot to appreciate here.
CURING KHANG YEO finished off the anthology with a stunningly rich character piece that finds the title character cured after several years as a zombie. Reclaimed by a very different world than the one he left, Yeo discovers that there are worse things than being a zombie - namely, living with yourself in the wake of all that you've done and those you've killed. His sense of guilt is supremely palpable, with the struggle between his own desires and the wishes of his medical saviors (if you can really call them that) is effectively striking. Author Deirdre Gould scores a huge, huge win with this story and I loved it so much that I immediately grabbed a copy of the first installment in her After The Cure series. While YEO is set in that same series, it is certainly effective as a stand-alone, but I suspect readers discovering Gould for the first time will find it difficult to ignore her novel-length works after reading this one. I, for one, absolutely need to know more about the world she's constructed and the psychological and societal aftermath of this cure.
As with any anthology, there were a couple stories that didn't strike a strong chord with me, but those that did, particularly those outlined above, were just incredibly top-notch efforts. Overall, this is a wickedly strong anthology and zombie fans should be devouring this one ASAP. If you're going through withdrawal's of AMC's The Walking Dead, or looking for something to fill the gap left by Jonathan Maberry's ROT & RUIN series, this fix is now in. Highly recommended!