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Zombie Mondays: A look book at Skipp and Spector's 'Book of the Dead'

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Zombies are by now so commonplace that they no doubt have their own coloring books. But back in the late 80s' their appeal still largely occupied a specific niche. Enter the anthology 'Book of the Dead' -- a collection edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector that I grabbed off the rack at a local drug store.

The book, which includes an introduction by director George Romero, features stories inspired by his classic series of zombie films that began with the original 'Night of the Living Dead.' Some of the stories are virtually extended universe tales drawn from Romero's work while others are only loosely inspired by it -- 'It Helps if You Sing' by Ramsey Campbell combines Voodoo-style zombies and a cult of Christian-derived fanatics that come off like scary Jehovah's Witnesses (the twist ending will make male readers squirm).

The entries run the gamut from somewhat cozy (Stephen King's 'Home Delivery') to some truly disgusting stuff ('Jerry's Kids meet Wormboy' by David Schow is not recommended for readers with weak stomachs).

Intelligent, gun-wielding zombies and sexuality among the living dead also emerge as topics in none of the stories. The tone varies greatly and not all of the stories will appeal to many readers.

The King story and Joe Lansdale's 'On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks' are generally considered the two best stories in the collection (the latter plays out like the Mad Max movies, but in Texas and with zombies). But the story 'Choices' by Glen Vasey was probably my favorite -- it balances human interest and visceral horror without being pretentious or mawkish, even adding a new wrinkle to zombie mythology in the form of a possible cure.

This collection is by no means perfect. But if you are a zombie fan, make a point of tracking it down.

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