I know I said I was going off zombies (still am a little) but I see things like The Essential Zombie Fiction Reading List (on the Barnes & Noble blog) and it's like a little red flag goes up in my head... And then I find myself posting here :o)
Don't get me wrong, I haven't got anything major against this reading list; lists like these are subjective and so on... I'd query the inclusion of the 'Newflesh' books (never got what all the fuss was about), Rhiannon Frater's trilogy is worth a read and when I finally get round to reviewing 'Plague Nation' I suspect I'll have a lot of good things to say about it. It's just that there are other zombie books out there that do the job a lot better and should have been included. What's that? Lists are subjective? Well, yes but... This time I know I'm right, I've read a lot of zombie fiction and know what I'm on about ;o)
So here's my list then, full of books that you can actually pick up right now this very second (in one form or another). If you want to get into zombie fiction then you could do a lot worse than check these out...
'The Rising' (Brian Keene) - These 'zombies' aren't technically zombies (being demon possessed corpses) but they still eat the living and the wider breakdown of society is depressingly well covered. 'The Rising' is the book credited with kick starting the zombie genre and it's where you need to start if you haven't already.
When you're done here, read...
'Dead Sea' (Brian Keene) - We're dealing with 'proper zombies' here and Keene does just as well here (even better I think) as he did with 'The Rising'. Read it! This one is underrated (I think) and deserves a wider audience.
'Pariah' (Bob Fingerman) - The zombie apocalypse isn't just about people getting eaten; it's about survival whilst dealing with a constant feeling of being trapped. 'Pariah' really nails that atmosphere with one apartment block of survivors surrounded by a Manhattan crammed full of eight million zombies. You can almost touch the claustrophobia here and Fingerman charts the downward spiral of certain characters in such a way that it stays with you for a long time afterwards.
The 'Autumn' series (David Moody) - If you've ever found yourself wondering how a 'British Zombie Apocalypse' might pan out then pick up 'Autumn' (which might still be free online, I think..) and read on from there. The plot is compelling but it's the background that Moody paints which is the key here. Everything is soul-crushingly bleak with little or no hope of salvation, just like all good zombie apocalypses should be.
'The Reapers are the Angels' (Alden Bell) - I almost didn't include this one as the character studies are so well done that you almost don't notice the zombies at all. 'Reapers' makes the cut though as I don't think I've read a zombie book that handles its characters as well. Hard times make for hard choices but you can still have a shot at redemption.
Otto Penzler's 'Zombies' Collection - I haven't made it all the way through this book but any anthology that has the first ever zombie story inside is essential reading for fans, no argument.
Last but not least, Joe McKinney's 'Dead City' is a favourite of mine with a great mix of citywide meltdown, intriguing questions and human drama. I think you'll like it and McKinney has written three more books (I think) following it.
It's clear then that my work is not yet done in terms of pointing out all the great zombie fiction out there ;o) While I'm not going to be reading all the zombie fiction that comes my way, I'm definitely back in the game here as well :o) Would anyone else like to add their recommendations?