21st Century Dead

Edited by Christopher Golden. St. Martin’s Griffin, $14.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-60584-1

Bearing out Golden’s contention that zombie fiction is a tool for processing the fear of death, the 19 new stories in this uneven follow-up to The New Dead approach the theme from a great man angle. Gore-gulping zombies rampage through Ken Bruen’s “The Dead of Dromore” and S.G. Browne’s “Reality Bites.” Zombies are a part of the everyday landscape in John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow’s “All the Comforts of Home,” and a learning tool for children in Mark Morris’s “Biters.” The walking dead serve as a metaphor for negligent parents in Orson Scott Card’s “Carousel,” the cancer-ridden in Jonathan Maberry’s “Jack and Jill,” and conscienceless soldiers in Rio Youers’s “The Happy Bird and Other Tales.” Only Dan Chaon’s “How We Escaped Our Certain Fate,” a poignant meditation on love, loss, and mourning, is notably original. The others, competently written, will please casual readers but may not do much for passionate zombie enthusiasts. (July)