A bunch of us book nerds on #bookstagram read RECEPTION by Kenzie Jennings together in February and we just were not ready to leave the party so we selected another Death's Head Press title, DAWN OF THE LIVING-IMPAIRED by Christine Morgan. Here are our reviews...
In my early 20s I consumed a lot of zombie media. So it has been a number of years since I last dipped into reading anything with a zombie storyline. If I'm being honest, zombie's just feel a little overdone, we've had a decade of them being the ghoulie of choice on television, and it felt like there wasn't much left to explore.
Which was why I was surprised by how deftly Christine Morgan was able to "inject life" into a "dead genre," adding some much needed levity and diversity to a tired corner of horror. Not every story was a hit for me, and my infamous issue with short stories came up (why so short!) but I was blown away by the range.
Highlights for me were: "The Barrow Maid" (Viking Revenge), "Family Life" (like if Parents was about zombies instead of cannibals), and "Good Boy" (NO YOU'RE CRYING). All bangers. I'd love to see stories like "Be Brave" or "A Tower to the Sky" adapted into a longer format. Can someone tell me what movie "Seven Brains, Ten Minutes" reminded me of?
Christine Morgan’s Dawn of the Living-Impaired Resurrects My Love of Zombies
By Sean M. Sanford
Zombies and I have a complicated relationship. On again/off again. You might think that enjoying zombie stories would be a real No-Brainer. But I grew tired. How many hands placing flowers upon a headstone must be clutched from below before it grows tired and predictable? For me, the theme of zombies was, ironically, quite mortal.
I read Christine Morgan’s Dawn of the Living-Impaired. Turns out zombies aren’t cliché so much as misrepresented. I’ve noticed zombies in general receiving a bit of a cultural facelift. I mean, they run now. So, that’s awesome. And scary. Nothing’s freakier than the undead who’s working on their cardio. Morgan takes it further though in her collection of short stories. These zombies infiltrate environments that were commonly ordained to the living. Like Vikings, dude. Zombie Vikings. Can you imagine? Well, Christine Morgan could. And take it from her, they’re not to be taken lightly.
How about Nazis? Yup, I said it. Nazi zombies. I don’t think I even need to expand.
Her collection goes further though. There’s talk-shows, undead families (“’Brainloaf, again?” groaned Davey…’We just had brainloaf!”’), and summer camps, just to name few. And not only that, but her themes run the gamut. They go from hilarious and satirical, to tragic, to downright scary; and beyond.
Dawn of the Living-Impaired is for those who feel they’ve seen all there is to see in zombie tutelage. My only criticism is that I wished some of the stories were as everlasting as their muse. Like literary methadone, I’ll just have to read more of Christine Morgan’s work to try and satiate my rekindled admiration for the living-impaired. @skaters_who_read
This is probably one of the best collections of zombie stories I've ever read. All of the stories are unique. Each one takes all of the typical zombie tropes and throws them out the window. I love that. I love how new and different each of these stories felt.
My favorites are The Barrow-Maid and Cured Meat. I sincerely had no idea that I needed a viking zombie story this much. In less capable hands it probably would not have been such a great story, but Morgan infuses it with so much wit and satire. Truthfully, quite a few of these stories are humorous, but some of them take a more serious tone. One such story is Cured Meat. I don't think I have ever read a story from the POV of a zombie, but this one is exceptional. The ending is quite a shock too.
Seven Brain, Ten Minutes is a great gross-out story. It's so tense and frustrating. Be Brave is a Holocaust story that took me totally by surprise. This one is rather serious and grim. I honestly didn't expect it to play out the way it did though. I think it's a unique POV for a zombie story. I assumed Klara was in a much more dire situation than she initially is. The title story and Family Life were both silly but again each one felt like a new contribution to zombie lore. The idea of a teenage zombie trying to act like a human made me laugh out loud.
This is a very solid collection, and one that I absolutely recommend you pick up. Especially if you have found that zombie stories just aren't your thing. I think Christine Morgan just may change your mind. @gowsy33
A collection of zombie tales ranging in tone, style, and substance by Christine Morgan. The most unique aspect of this collection is the diversity! Each story is totally different in a variety of ways from the next one-the only common element is Morgan's knack for cinematic, vivid storytelling with detailed descriptions that bring the scene to life in the reader's mind. I love how she will spend time on a character's clothing, posture, and physical features in order to put flesh and blood (or a lack thereof) on them so the audience can *see* them. Here's my breakdown of each story:
DAWN OF THE LIVING-IMPAIRED/ I loved this story. I could see it developed into a graphic novel. The social commentary is relevant to today's conversation and I was surprised by how it spoke into our current pandemic situation even though this collection was published prior to any knowledge of COVID-19. This speaks to how Christine Morgan's mind works things out and can apply it to past, present and future situations. Smart/clever.
SEVEN BRAINS, TEN MINUTES/ Maybe my favorite story and one that I could see developed into a full length novella or novel. I loved how much world-building was involved and communicated in such a short amount of time. The way the zombies behaved differently or looked a specific way depending on where they 'turned'. Loved it.
THE BARROW-MAID/This story made me smile the whole time I was reading it. I love Viking/Nordic folklore/storytelling. All the visuals, traditions, and presence come through the narrative in technicolor detail. Great story.
CURED MEAT- Another story with amazing world-building and told through a zombie's POV. I liked the way the zombies have their own slang/language for describing their environment/context. Very realistic; very tribal.
BE BRAVE- I loved the emotional and serious tone of this tale. Two girls find themselves on a train together amidst the horrors of Nazi-Germany. Human monsters killed and turned into dead monsters. The two girls must fight to stay alive. "Ready to be brave"
FAMILY LIFE- I loved this story. Another one that could easily be a graphic novel. A little zombie family.
A TOWER TO THE SKY- This one taking place in Babylonia; a rich, exotic setting. I had no idea how Morgan was going to bring zombies into this one."Evil spirits, most agreed. A curse, a spell, angry gods." I enjoyed this "origin story" of maybe the first time "zombies" as we know them ran through the marketplace on their quest for human flesh.
GOOD BOY- This story!! A loyal pet during hard times, indeed. Aww, Baxter! Such a hero!
THOUGHT HE WAS A GONER- Great close to this collection. I'll just hint that the child in this story is named HERBERT. *wink*
Thank you to all the readers on #bookstagram that joined me in a group chat for a lively discussion of these stories as we finished. @mother.horror