Book Club Nominees

6 Zombie Stories That Will Nibble Away at your Brain

by @Sepulchre, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for November’s “Aim for the Head!” category

I’m one of those people who can’t get enough zombies. I love their insatiable drive to consume, infect, and destroy. They are death, and therefore inevitable. Zombies are the monsters that force us to confront grief and loss by turning our loved ones into desecrated, rotting puppets. Plus, who doesn’t like whacking zombies on the dome?

Cover of Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Cover shows a hand pressed against glass. The glass is red, perhaps covered in blood.

Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Something very peculiar is happening in Stockholm. There’s a heatwave on and people cannot turn their lights out or switch their appliances off. Then the terrible news breaks. In the city morgue, the dead are waking up… (Goodreads)

This is my favourite zombie book. Lindqvist is a thoughtful horror writer, and even the quiet, profound moments can be filled with dread. His sense of atmosphere has been a real influence on my writing.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Cover shows a collection of undead persons - they might be vampires, they might be zombies, and they might be a combination

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Robert Neville may well be the last living man on Earth… but he is not alone. An incurable plague has mutated every other man, woman, and child into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures who are determined to destroy him. By day, he is a hunter, stalking the infected monstrosities through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn…  (Amazon)

Aside from loving this novel personally, it’s a no-brainer for this category: “I Am Legend is a 1954 post-apocalyptic horror novel by American writer Richard Matheson that was influential in the modern development of zombie and vampire literature and in popularizing the concept of a worldwide apocalypse due to disease. The novel was a success and was adapted into the films The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), and I Am Legend (2007). It was also an inspiration behind Night of the Living Dead (1968).” – Wikipedia

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Cover of The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. Cover shows a silhouette of a young girl against a yellow background. The girl is small, wearing a dress, and spreading her arms wide.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman. (Goodreads)

Surprisingly arresting and morbid, Carey gives a fresh, interesting take on the genre. I don’t often go for “sentient” zombies, but I’ll make exceptions when they’re well-developed characters.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of World War Z by Max Brooks. Cover shows a texture that could be parchment, splattered in blood.

World War Z by Max Brooks

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years. (Goodreads)

While more serious than some of Brooks’ other works, I still consider this essentially a fun recommendation. The most enjoyable aspect is the opportunity to follow the stories of a culturally diverse cast, who are all fighting for survival in different parts of the world.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Rising by Brian Keene. Cover shows hands reaching through a wall where the boards of the wall have been pried away.

The Rising by Brian Keene

The Rising is the story of Jim Thurmond, a determined father battling his way across a post-apocalyptic zombie landscape, to find his young son. Accompanied by Martin, a preacher still holding to his faith, and Frankie, a recovering heroin addict with an indomitable will to survive, Jim travels from state to state and town to town facing an endless onslaught of undead hordes and the evils perpetrated by his fellow man. (Amazon)

Having won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2003, this novel’s reputation precedes itself among fans of the undead. Some credit The Rising with reigniting the public’s fascination with zombies. While the style is sometimes polarizing, Keene isn’t afraid to experiment with our traditional perceptions of what zombies can be.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. Cover shows a hand ripping through paper. The fingertips are red, as stained with blood.

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills… and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills. And that’s both a good, and a bad thing. It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new task force created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It’s bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance… (Goodreads)

This is for those of you who love a high-adrenaline, campy thriller. The levels of cheese are reputedly over 9000, but aren’t we all a little curious if a James Bond archetype could take on the undead?

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Join HOWL Society on Monday, November 8, 2021 to begin discussion!

Maia Weir is a multidisciplinary artist and author living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her short stories have been included in Canadian publications since she was a young teen, and after an interlude to study the visual arts, she has returned to her writing with a diverse and intersectional set of skills. Her favourite genres are children’s literature and adult horror, but don’t read too much into that. She’s also an animator, and animators are weird.  

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