Monday, 18 November 2019

REVIEW - ROTTEN BODIES - A ZOMBIE SHORT STORY COLLECTION BY STEVEN JENKINS

Title: Rotten Bodies - A Zombie Short Story Collection
Author: Steven Jenkins
Genre: Horror, Zombies
Publisher: Different Cloud Publishing
Release Date: 22nd October 2019 
                            (previously published 27th April 2015)

BLURB from Goodreads
We all fear death’s dark spectre, but in a zombie apocalypse, dying is a privilege reserved for the lucky few. There are worse things than a bullet to the brain—much worse.

The dead are walking, and they’re hungry. Steven Jenkins, bestselling author of Fourteen Days and Burn The Dead, shares five zombie tales that are rotten for all the right reasons.

Meet Dave, a husband and father with a dirty secret, who quickly discovers that lies aren’t only dangerous…they’re deadly. Athlete Sarah once ran for glory, but when she finds herself alone on a country road with an injured knee, second place is as good as last. Howard, shovelling coal in the darkness of a Welsh coal mine, knows something’s amiss when his colleagues begin to disappear. But it’s when the lights come on that things get truly scary.

Five different takes on the undead, from the grotesque to the downright terrifying. But reader beware: as the groans get louder and the twitching starts, you’ll be dying to reach the final page.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
After reading and loving the Dead Aware series so far by Eleanor Merry, I felt I wanted to try another zombie book and came across this collection of five short stories/novella’s by Steven Jenkins. There’s I Am Dead, Room 503, Run, The Pit and Simon Dunne: Former Zombie.

I love this version of the cover, a rather angry looking rotting female zombie. The cover gives you the clue that there won’t be any “nice zombies” or “aware zombies” in this story collection. The zombies in this collection are the monotonous, angry, flesh eating, never give up until they get you kind.

Room 503 has the main character Dave taking his wife flowers, a sign of guilt? Well, the short answer yes as Dave has to go away to do with work and he is wanting to oil the waters with his wife as she doesn’t like him working away from home. It turns out she has every right to feel funny about her husband working away as he isn’t in fact working but meeting his long-term mistress in a swanky hotel to spend the weekend in bed with her! The irony is that whilst he is locked away in his hotel room with his mistress, he hears a ruckus in the street and they go onto the hotel balcony to see what is happening. The Police are facing off against . . ..what are those moaning, shuffling people, grabbing and biting? Well, they are zombies and in the fight against the Police they are winning! Dave and his mistress check out the news on the hotel room TV and on the internet on their own phones and see that there has been a virus breakout that’s turned people into zombies. To catch this virus all you need to do is be scratched or bitten by a zombie. Dave tries to phone his wife, suddenly feeling guilty about her and his daughter being at home unprotected. Obviously, Dave isn’t the only person trying to use the telephone network so he keeps getting a continual engaged tone. Dave speaks to reception who tell him what he has already seen from the balcony, and that the hotel is now in lockdown, it is not safe to leave the hotel, and their advice is to stay in your locked room. There is Police back up on the way to get the zombies away, at the moment the hotel is safe as all doors are locked etc and should hold against the zombies senselessly walking into them. Dave speaks to his mistress and says he is going to try to get to his car, despite her protests and her begging for him not to leave her alone, he sneaks out of the room, down the back stairs to see if he can make it to his car!

One of the other stories in the collection is called The Pit. This story is set in Wales during the years of Margaret Thatcher’s government, when jobs were scarce, when you took what job you could get to make ends meet and put food on the table to feed your family. The main character in this one is Howard John Thomas, he is married to Thelma and they have a 7 year old daughter called Delith and a baby son called Jacob. Howard has his own idea’s how all this horrible business began. He thinks, like others have said mining half a mile down is too far and they have found the devil. The devil being zombies that roam the mines shafts preying on the few miners left trying to work to get money to feed their families. Thelma didn’t want her husband working down the pit, but after being on the dole, it was the only job that he could get, so he took it. He tries to not think about those that are roaming round in the pit and thinks of his children, and his wife Thelma, the very reason he is willing to work in this dangerous place. Howard thinks about Delith, singing her heart out at the nativity play at school. Howard was so proud of his singing Shepherd Delith, who wants to be Mary anyway! Then he thinks about baby Jacob lying in his cot with his big blue eyes gazing up at him. Then he thinks about Thelma’s thick blonde curls waving down her back, he truly loves his family and would do anything for them. Trouble is it’s getting harder and harder to work down here in the mine. There is never enough battery power in your light, so you have to turn it off sometimes to preserve it, then if/when you get lost you run a larger risk of being caught by one of those zombies.

In the last story in the book, the main character Simon Dunn, thinks a lot about the word zombie, he hates it. Simon would prefer to be called the “walking-dead” or “coffin-walker” than zombie. He thinks zombie sounds low class, common and undignified! Simon then reveals that the official, politically correct terminology to use is “Former Zombie.” Simon also reflects on how simple his life used to be before he became a “Former Zombie.” He goes on to say he used to get up, have breakfast, watch TV, kiss his girlfriend and take the dog for a walk. Then a rather funny quote I can’t resist sharing, Simon says “Of course, the dog was the first thing I ate” that honestly made me laugh out loud as it’s so pragmatic and deadpan how the character reveals the fact, he ate his own dog.

There are some fantastic descriptions within this collection, such as “Every joint and muscle aches, and my head is pounding like a hangover”
“Even my finger hurt and creak when I make a fist” and “When I attempt to bend my legs I can feel the fluid burn and swirl around my kneecaps”
They enable you to imagine and almost feel the pain these zombies and people are feeling.

There are also some great humorous descriptions in the book too, such as a fairly newly turned zombie who isn’t sure how long he has been turned but all he can think about is his desire to feed on warm flesh. “Its all I can think about – that and trying to remember which part of the body carries the juiciest meat.” The zombie continues thinking about eating, trying to work preferences out, an animal? No, they decide they’d prefer a human. They aren’t particular as to whether its male or female but… “Preferably someone morbidly obese. I could feed on them for days. And the chances of one outrunning me are pretty remote..”

I found all the individual stories really good and in fact, in some cases I would love to read more from those characters or from within the world they were set in. Some of the stories are shorter than others, such as Run, but are still good reads. I would certainly like to read more by Steven Jenkins, zombie and/or other books he has written as I enjoyed his writing style. The stories flowed really well and quick enough to dip in and out of the book perhaps if you were on a bus or train journey. 

So, to sum up this is a really good collection of short zombie stories! This selection of stories would be a great initiation to the zombie genre and is a fantastic introduction to this author’s work too.



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