I haven't read a zombie anthology this good since Skipp and Spector's Book of the Dead (Bantam - 1989), and will not hesitate to say that Daley owns zombie anthologies now. What Daley has compiled here is some seriously groundbreaking stuff, the likes that we haven't seen in a very long time. Riddled with stories by genre mainstays and a surprising amount of newer voices, Best New Zombie Tales Volume 2 really sets the standard for zombie short stories.
What you're looking at here is 20 fantastic stories, 1 recipe, a comic by Robert Elrod, and an intro written by Daley himself, that is just as incredible as all of the stories that follow it. The intro centers around a fictional account of Daley being attacked by H.P. Lovecraft, and what turns out to be one of the most hilarious parts of the book. That alone should have told me I was in for something awesome.
I won't go into detail about all of the stories inside this mind-blowing anthology, but here's a taste of some of my favorites.
Rio Youers' story Bury Me Not is the first one out of the gate, and I honestly think he didn't even wait for the starting pistol to fire. He just smashed on through, carrying with him a poetic beauty, and an incredible ability to combine raw emotion and brutal description into one masterful piece. The story follows the end of a relationship between a young woman and an old but worldly man whom she developed a special friendship with and visited often. Youers really goes the distance with this one. This was an incredible story to lead off with.
Laundry Day by Steven A. Roman is up next, telling the story of a man who just so happens to do his laundry on the night that the world goes to shit. Laced with a brutal humor and some seriously gory violence, this one is a slaughter-fest crowd pleaser for sure. Action from the get go, with a surprising twist ending that I really didn't see coming.
I'd never read anything by David Niall Wilson before, but if Coming Home is any indication of his overall style, consider me a fan. Wilson tells the story about a Marine squad that is flown into an airbase via helicopter to find out why they've lost communications with the ground. Billy, one of the Marines that volunteered for this mission can't get his family off of his mind, and when things get hairy on the ground, he decides to take a chance and make a break for it. Wilson really captures what I can only imagine could be one of the biggest fears a soldier could possibly have - not being able to protect the ones you love - and really shoves that emotional turmoil down your throat.
John Everson shows up to the party with Camille Smiled, which is an absolutely crazy entry - possibly the most fucked up family story you'll read for a long while. Mourning the tragic loss of his child, Jack invests his time and money in an old gypsy/voodoo charm that is said to bring the dead back to life. Little does he know, sometimes the dead are better left alone. If you're familiar with Everson's writing, I guarantee that this will be a departure of sorts. There's nothing erotic in this one, but the beauty in Everson's words is there nonetheless. The story just grabs ahold of you and refuses to let go, culminating in what is quite possibly the most satisfying ending of a short story that I've read in years.
I cannot end this without mentioning Matt Hults' The Finger, which is abso-fucking-lutely insane. This story just broods and broods and then BAM! - explodes all over the page. The feel is very comic book/80's monster movie/slasher-esque, with relentless action and more visceral gore and nastiness than you can shake a stick at. Or shake off a stick. Either one describes this delightfully disgusting story. A young man comes up with a foolproof plan to make some serious cash, scamming a local diner by placing a severed finger into a bowl of chili and acting as if it was there to begin with. When his plan fails (in a hilariously black kind of way) he is shoved face first into a nightmare scenario reminiscent of a Hieronymus Bosch landscape, replete with a giant zombie-monster that makes my inner horror/fanboy writhe with joy and repulsion. This is the perfect story to end on. Fucking amazing.
All in all, Daley has a masterpiece on his hands with this one. If you walk away from this review without buying the book, you're really missing an incredible thing. This anthology is certainly both the stuff of nightmares, and a zombie lover's wet dream. ALL of the stories are downright amazing. Daley has really outdone himself. I will be following this series until the end.
Check out Books of the Dead Press at their website. You can also check out James Roy Daley's personal website here, and catch him on Twitter as well (as BOOKSoftheDEAD and his personal feed). Best Zombie Tales Volume 1 & 2 are both available at most online booksellers.
Also, keep an eye out for other exciting books from Books of the Dead Press.