Book Review -- 'Nights of the Living Dead'
(Editorial Note: this review is based on a review copy of this book provided by St. Martin's Griffin. It will be released on July 11).
Film director George Romero ('Night of the Living Dead', 'Dawn of the Dead', 'Creepshow') and horror novelist/comic book writer Jonathan Maberry (Marvel Zombies) edited this short story collection, which attempts to connect directly with the events of the classic 1968 zombie film 'Night of the Living Dead.' Some of the stories tie in to the film more intimately than others -- some also retain the 1968 setting while others treat the story as essentially timeless (one story, Isaac Marion's 'The Girl on the Table, is about the young girl in the film that a zombie bit on the arm).
Romero and Maberry also contributed introductions and stories to the collection, which features an impressive roster of talent; Joe Lansdale (the Hap and Leonard series) Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth), Mike Carey (The Girl with all the Gifts), Jay Bonzinga (the 'Walking Dead' novels) Mira Grant (the 'Newsflesh' series) actor-turned-writer Ryan Brown ('Playing Dead') and others.
But the anthology, despite offering some entertaining stories, ultimately breaks little new ground. Some of the stories seem too reminiscent of earlier stories from collections such as the seminal anthology 'Book of the Dead' (David Wellington's contribution, 'Orbiting Decay,' is set on a space station -- it's good but is similar to Stephen King's better 'Home Delivery').
John Skipp, one of the editors of 'Book of the Dead,' contributes a story called 'Jimmy Jay Baxter's Last Best Day on Earth.' This is one of the more entertaining stories in the collection and while it's political commentary is heavy-handed, it is funny.
Romero's contribution, 'John Doe,' is set in a morgue from which the first recorded zombie in the zombie apocalypse rises. This story features the dry humor and social commentary that is typically associated with Romero's better work.
Maberry's tale, 'Lone Gunman,' connects the events of the film to his Joe Ledger series of horror/action novels. But despite being well-written and entertaining, it seems incomplete.
The best story in the collection is arguably David J. Schow's 'Williamson's Folly.' The story focuses on the Venus probe from the original movie that might have been the cause of the zombie outbreak.Solid writing and a decent twist ending distinguish this entry.
Brian Keene's 'Pages from a Notebook Found Inside a House in the Woods' has a great set up involving a unique plan for an armed robbery but ultimately emerges as one of the weaker stories in the collection. The story's twist, which could have been interesting, is simply too jarring to work.
More disappointing is he John Russo contribution 'The Day After.' Russo, who co-wrote he screenplay to 'Night of the Living Dead,' based his story on an unproduced screenplay he wrote with Romero. The story seems compressed and uninspired despite some interesting ideas (there were a few character deaths that I was not expecting).
This book boats an impressive pedigree and will definitely please fans of Romero's original zombie films. But readers will expect much more than is delivered considering the talent involved..