Appalachian Undead, you immediately start thinking of a zombie Deliverance, don't you? As S.G. Browne writes in his introduction, there is a definite "stereotype of the region as poor and desolate and culturally backward" that fiction has done as much to perpetuate as to dispel.
Some of the stories here are far removed from that stereotype, but others absolutely wallow in it - sometimes to the point of self-parody. Faced with the difficult task of playing to reader expectations, while still being respectful to the inhabitants of the region - living, dead, and undead - editors Eugene Johnson and Jason Sizemore have done a good job of collecting stories from both ends of the spectrum.
As for the zombies themselves, they run the full gamut from mindless shuffling to fast-moving aggression, and everything in between.
Highlights for me included 'Calling Death' by Jonathan Maberry, in which a survivor makes a claustrophobic journey back to the surface; 'Times Is Tough in Musky Holler' by John Skipp & Dori Miller, in which community service takes an unsettling turn; 'Long Days to Come' by K. Allen Wood, which explores a household's duck-and-cover sort of reaction to an outbreak; 'We Take Care Of Our Own' by John Everson, which deftly blends corporate greed with the fear of the outsider; and 'Twilight of the Zombie Game Preserve' by S. Clayton Rhodes, which had a very King/Bachman sort of feel to its tale of revenge and consequences.
The others are a mixed bag, but I'd be remiss in not mentioning 'Sitting Up With The Dead' by Bev Vincent was an interesting tale, in a melancholy sort of way; 'Black Friday' by Karin Fuller was an amusing take on consumerism that could have benefited from a little subtly, but still was a lot of morbid fun; and 'Hell's Hollow' by Michael West was a fun carnival twist that I only wish had been longer.
As for the stories in Mountain Undead, the companion chapbook, 'Unto the Lord a New Song' by Geoffrey Girard seemed like an interesting story with lots of potential, but lost me with its stream-of-consciousness narrative and lack of structure; and 'Let Me Come In' by Lesley Conner was a fun (and twisted) take on the traditional fairy tale.
For the most part, these are simple horror stories, with no attempt at social commentary or heavy-handed messaging, and that's just fine with me. Nothing really wowed me to the point where I felt compelled to rush out and read everything a contributor has written, but I definitely came away entertained.
Published July 31st 2013 by Apex Publications
Paperback, 222 / 74 pages