First an admission - I know Pete Bevan, he's a writer friend of mine and we've both submitted stories and won contests at the website, Tales of the Zombie War (www.talesofworldwarz.com) where some of the stories in his book have appeared prior to publication.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled book review already in progress.
What can you get these days for five bucks; A Happy Meal, a gallon and a third of regular gas, a 10 ounce soda at the movies? That's not much really, but in the realm of digital publishing, a five-spot can set you up with a few hours of short and long fiction downloaded and presented in your e-reader of choice.
UK Author Pete Bevan offers his collection of zombie short stories, All the Dead are Here for once cent less than five bucks, and for that price offers 17 stories, that breaks down to just under $.30 per story. And while all of the stories are indeed tales of the undead, they span the breadth and length of styles that makes each story stand mostly alone. Whether it's the dark tale of a father watching his young daughter as he transforms, or the action-adventure tale of a post modern knight hunting the mysterious "Minister", Bevan's stories evoke all the horror and dread of the best of zombie cinema.
Bevan focuses much of his talent on creating horrific images of a world descended into gray rot.
There was no movement; the vista was the same one he had moved through to get to this point, grey buildings, temporary structures, static mist but no life, or death, for that matter. Nothing. Through the gloom, the distant sun struggled to light the city around him, even though it was now mid morning.
That's from the best subset of stories in the book, The Minister series, where, using three different formats, the interview format made popular by Max Brooks' World War Z, a third person present tense narrative, and a third person omniscient, to tell the winding story of a religious man with the power to bend zombies to his will.
While the stories in All the Dead are Here tends towards action-movie pacing, a few breaks from that style show Bevan's deeper thought pattern on the idea of the end of the world. He allows his characters to reflect on the world's changes, society's collapse, and their own transformations. Admittedly, as the plots of each story hinge on the end of the world coming via zombie apocalypse the characters' reflections bear some similarity, but even here it never loses its freshness.
It occurred to me that maybe I had stumbled over the reason for the popularity of Zombies before the fall. It wasn’t the shooting a Zombie in the face, as I assumed - which is a far more gruesome and horrible thing than any of the films ever made out. Perhaps it was the subconscious realisation that living like this freed you from the credit crunch, car payments, mobile phones, social networking and all the crap that means nothing to the instinctual man that evolved in caves and hunted meat.
Sometimes people and plots circle back on one another and tie seemingly disparate stories and characters together which gives All the Dead are Here a greater readability than it otherwise might have.
I enjoyed this book but it's better in shorter doses, i.e. read a couple of stories here, a couple there... rather than blasting through the whole thing like a novel, because it's not a novel. Spreading out the reading experience allows the stories to retain their identity without revealing some repetition in language and style - something that isn't a problem when short stories are published six months apart on a website or in a magazine, but does become sort of a problem in a collection.
So, the workaround is to read in smaller chunks (of living flesh) and savor the taste of those little chunks for a bit before moving to the next meal. There are some other minor issues that plague - pun intended - the DIY/self publishing route to Amazon that All the Dead are Here touches, the format of the actual text, block paragraphs and line breaks instead of indenting, single spacing instead of double spacing, etc... these might be something that you can change right in the reader (I am reading on a computer and not via Kindle software so I don't know for certain) so All the Dead are Here has the look and feel of web site text more so than of a bound book.
Still, there are worse sins to commit than not using tabs.
DIY stuff also suffers from a lack of editorial resources, but for the most part All the Dead are Here shambles along pretty well as is, a testament to Pete Bevan's skill at the keyboard. And that is really the crux of the argument for the accessibility of publication through Kindle, or ePub format, and immediate digital delivery. Because an agent/editor is too busy looking for the next Harry Potter and the Something of Something to work with an author like Bevan, his work otherwise would be stored on some forgotten hard drive, or typed and desk-drawered a-la Emily Dickinson cum Worcestershire. And, if you ask me, the world is a better place where ideas can shamble around, find and audience, bite into that audience, and spread those ideas around like some apocalyptic virus.
And, for me that's worth at least five bucks. Actually, The Minister stories are worth at least five bucks, the rest of All the Dead are Here is a bonus hiding in The Minister's shadow.