By Ben Cooper
Perkins, Lori, ed. Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance. Ravenous Romance: Beverly, MA: Ravenous Romance, 2009. $6.99 USD. ISBN: 978-1-60777-308-5.
There has been a strange phenomenon in the last year or two in the genre publishing world. The blending of horror fiction with beloved classics of literature, such as Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights. These bizarre portmanteaus have caught the readers’ interest, shifting healthy amounts of copies, as well as media interest with features in the daily newspapers. Apparently, they have also sparked an interest in said classics in the younger, non-literary public, which is no bad thing. If you like Jane Austen. But let’s not start that discussion here.
We all know what zombies want – flesh and brains. That’s all they’re interested in; they just want you for your body (parts). Or do they? This new collection seeks to look at the more tender side of the undead. After all, just because their re-animated corpses are rotting away and, up to now, they’ve shown a tendency toward mindless violence, it doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. Undead chicks need love too.
Editor Lori Perkins gives a brief and humorous introduction to this most unusual collection before letting the work do the talking. And boy, does it.
Jeremy Wagner kicks things off with “Romance Ain’t Dead”. It’s a fun story that proves that love really can breach any boundary, even death. Bruce has a problem, namely, that his wife ends up dead when she’s hit by a boat while out indulging in some drunken, night-time swimming (always a winning combo). As he so tactfully puts it, the boat “nailed my wife in the head”. Fortunately for Bruce, his next-door neighbour is a Haitian witch-doctor.
It’s a good story and genuinely quite creepy in its way. Nothing is terrifying; there is just a genuine air of discomfort reading the thoughts of a man who is in love with a re-animated corpse. I’m pretty sure some serial killers have had a similar fascination. Of course, Bruce loved his wife to begin with and really, this is a tale of a man so in love with his wife, he’ll do anything to remain with her. It’s all told in a brisk style and you get a genuine feel for Bruce’s character through Wagner’s writing. A good start for the anthology.
“Everyone I Love Is Dead” by Elizabeth Coldwell puts a neat spin on the zombie apocalypse: because they’re happy eating the brains and offal of dead animals, let’s re-integrate these demonic shamblers into society. They can even get jobs and pay taxes, a nice revenue stream for the government. The protagonist, Millie, is torn between her living lover, Brody, and her re-animated former partner, Mark. Both guys are fine catches but Millie just can’t work out what to do.
This is the first story where I became painfully aware of the sexual element of these stories. Nothing wrong with a bit of sex; after all, it really is what makes the world go round, but like many readers, I find it a tad laughable when it’s written out, mainly because I’ve read so few sex scenes in books that really communicate what sex is really like. It’s all “quivering sex” and “rigid gland”, and so on. There is an annual award for worst written sex scene, the Bad Sex In Fiction Award, precisely because so few writers can do it without arousing anything more than sniggers. I wouldn’t say that Coldwell writes it badly; it’s just that, like a great many, it really doesn’t work that well. Maybe that’s just me, who knows, but it didn’t work any better than the dozens of other sex scenes I’ve read over the years.
That aside, this is a good story that poses some interesting questions. Coldwell creates three interesting characters in Millie, Mark and Brody and I wanted to read more about them once I’d finished.
One story I really enjoyed was Gina McQueen’s “Apocalypse as Foreplay”. This story is one of the quickest reads in the book, and McQueen really knows how to keep your eye moving down the page. Of all the stories in the collection, this is the one I could see easily made into a fun short film.
Our female protagonist is holed up in her house pot-shotting the living dead as she waits for her lover Ray to make his way through the hordes. As she does, she spills a lot of details about herself and the neighbours she is so happily blasting back to the grave. All this killing is getting her hot and, when Ray finally wades his way in, McQueen gives us a nice little twist, not quite the raunchy ending we were expecting, and the story is all the better for it. It’s a funny and endearing tale, and well worth turning to as soon as you lay your hands on this book.
This is a great collection. I approached it with more than a pinch of wary cynicism and was won over within seconds. If you like zombie films or fiction, then it’s a must-have and, even if you don’t, then I’d give it a spin. The writing is of good quality throughout and, by putting an anthology that fuses two seemingly disparate genres together so expertly, Lori Perkins may well have hit on a real winner.