Book Review: Soul Survivors Hometown Tales: Volume 1 – Editors Shawn M. Riddle | David Naughton-Shires

Soul Survivors Hometown Tales: Volume 1

Isaac Newton, working from dates prophesied in the books of Revelation and Daniel, proclaimed the world in its current state would end in 2060. If Harold Camping were right, the end times would have already happened by now and we wouldn’t be here reading (or writing) about a doomsday-themed anthology. Let’s not forget the widespread belief that December 21st, 2012, will result in the beginning of a spiritual rebirth or the end of the world as we know it. We don’t know the date or cause of Armageddon, but the authors who’ve worked on Soul Survivors Hometown Tales: Volume One present some scenarios (none that are likely to happen, mind you). The project began as a tribute to Autumn author David Moody (who provides an introduction on both the book’s genesis and purpose) and consists of thirteen stories told from the viewpoint of apocalypse survivors. Each tale is set in the hometown of their respective authors. I’d imagine this may have disturbed one or more of the contributors as they were composing their installments. Anyway, my preferred stories were:

-Pretend Girlfriend (Jonathan Wood). The first in the collection, Wood’s tale is set amidst a zombie outbreak in London. You won’t find a take-charge hero à la Ken Foree’s character in Dawn of the Dead here: the horror is pushed aside in favor of psychological exploration. The narrator’s grief over the loss of his loved one forms the bulk of the story. Prior to Girlfriend, I had never come across a zombie outbreak story where the lead characters weren’t engaged in combat. The people who don’t become heroes are either seen briefly or mentioned in passing. I had thought the stories here would be of an “us vs. them” nature, but  Girlfriend subverted those expectations. Wood’s nondescript narrator and restraint with gore earn it a spot among my favorites in the collection.

-City of the Dead (Sean T. Page). A Marburg-type virus has struck London. Professor Robert Downing, trapped in his offices, is poring over a comrade’s bookshelves when he comes across a book of spells. Could magic be the tool needed to revive civilization? Some readers could be put off by the inclusion of magic in a science-fiction story, but I felt the magic system was carefully developed. The rules of magic are given some complexity and are revealed when necessary. It was the bleak ending that struck me the most about Dead. Let’s just say Downing learns (the hard way, of course) the intent to do good doesn’t always lead to actual good being done. The creative blending of horror, science-fiction and fantasy make Dead among Survivors’ most intriguing tales.

-Love Thy Neighbor (Patrick D’Orazio). Another zombie tale, only this time evil dons a human mask. Robert believes he has lost his family after having not heard from them in a week. To entertain himself, he has resorted to watching his neighbor Greg battle zombies. Robert is desperate for some human interaction and pays a visit to Greg. Too bad Robert doesn’t realize the friendly-seeming Greg has a dark side. D’Orazio plays upon common annoyances and worries. At some point, haven’t we all had grievances with our neighbors? Not to mention that most of us have found ourselves blindsided by an uncharacteristic gesture by someone we thought we’ve known well. Looking back, I probably should have predicted the twist in Neighbor. I doubt twenty pages or so of two people bonding would’ve made the cut. Nevertheless,  D’Orazio surprised me with the directions his story took.

-White Rabbits and Clowns Oh My! (Shells Waters). If Killer Klowns from Outer Space played the idea of havoc-wreaking clowns for laughs, Waters’ story plays it straight. This story could have gone off the rails in the worst way possible. Clowns and rabbits as the cause of Armageddon? It sounds far-fetched at best, but Waters makes it work. She launches straight into the horror and leaves no time for explanations as to why the armies of clowns and rabbits have gone on a murder spree. Gory, twisted, and shrouded in surreality, Rabbits is a story that’s hard to forget.

Whether it be gore, suspense or just some good writing, all thirteen contributions had something to offer. A common complaint about anthologies is the lack of consistency. For every great story you have to slog through two or three duds. Soul Survivors always entertains, often chills and sometimes even provokes thought. I will admit some typographical errors did bother me, but the quality of the stories renders such trivial complaints irrelevant. Zombie fans and indie horror fans alike need to add this to their collection.

Soul Survivors Hometown Tales: Volume 1

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