“Zombies vs Robots: No Man’s Land,” a new prose anthology, edited by Jeff Conner, with illustrations by Fabio Listrani, and published by IDW, is deserving of a thoughtful review. Let’s get one thing straight. Zombies are definitely not for everyone. However, as more and more casual readers have come to find, the genre offers up some fun possibilities, and this book is a fine example of just that.
There is nothing more scary than a zombie purist. Dare you take the name of George Romero in vain, you might be tempting a deadly glare or angry retort. What would a purist make of stories about zombies and robots? Well, they might say that zombies traditionally are ciphers for social commentary so, anything that takes you further away from that, is suspect. And there is something to be said for that. I mean, what does a zombie apocalypse really have to offer besides blood-spattered escapism? Truth be told, I’m not a zombie guy. However, I am open to a good story. That is where this book has got you covered.
If there is one thing that remains true to the zombie canon it is the people left to fend off the shuffling flesh-eaters. A good zombie story, by its very nature, has got to be character-driven. Sure, there will be blood. But horror fans do not live by blood alone, at least not thoughtful fans that will come back and sustain a franchise like Zombies vs Robots, which has a long history as a comic book series. To do it justice in prose, the words must carry the day and sing. Each story here sings and adds a new wrinkle to the zombie genre.
Chris Ryall’s impressive opening story, “Meaner Than a Junkyard Dog,” takes the ambitious challenge of laying out a detailed and realistic response to a zombie infestation. If something like this happened in the gated communities of Southern California, you better believe that the home owners would hire the best security that money can buy. And, when that failed, well, they’d freak out and be open to other options. Maybe let the military industrial complex take over? Sure, why not? Ryall walks us through as a tableaux of Californian suburbanites confront their worst fears as they are forced to put their faith in the worst hands.
Among a great roster of writers, Jon McGoran provides two stories with his distinctive handle on characters. In “Chili Night,” he provides his offbeat view on taking a leap of faith. This is a story of an enclave of humans who have been reduced to the most basic of living conditions. And a lot of these folks weren’t all that impressive at their best. The question comes down to how much longer the elder leader, Buck, can keep the peace. In due time, he will need to cede command to his brutal son, Buddy. What he’d rather do is have Buddy share leadership with a sensitive and intelligent outsider, Father Tom, who has helped in ways that Buddy will never be capable of. There will be blood, indeed, along with one hell of a story.
Whether you are new, or quite familiar, with the zombie genre, “Zombies vs Robots: No Man’s Land,” is sure to entertain. You can find it at Amazon right here.