Book Title: Less Than Dead
Author: Samantha M. Derr is the Editor and I will post each of the short stories’ authors below in my review
Genre(s): Queer Fiction, Short Stories, Science Fiction, Zombies, Fantasy, Romance aka a little bit of everything 😉
Average Goodreads Rating: 4
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
Brief Synopsis:This collection of zombie stories really runs the gamut: zombiefication of soldiers through wartime experiments, the reanimation of corpses by necromancers (both good and evil), people turned into life sized porcelain dolls by some virus, dead lovers brought back as “ghosts,” and the soulless undead who just want to eat your brains. Oh and did I mention the lesbian, gay, bisexual, non-binary and trans characters (most as MCs)?
Fantastic stories and characters! Each of the authors managed to get me invested in their stories and the characters’ relationships and struggles for survival. I know I’ve said this about superhero stories in a previous post, but zombie stories are such great allegories for queerness in society. I’m sure I will say this about every type of story eventually, but I see patterns and allegories and meaning everywhere so feel free to ignore my need to see deeper meaning in things. 🙂
For real though – a lot of these stories had characters reacting to zombies and queerness in very similar ways. In one of them, the MC is cursed and it can only be broken if he is involved with a zombie sexually. The treatment of the zombies and human-zombie relationships in this story and the assumption by the curser that this experience would be humiliating to the cursee are all very reminiscent of the way a lot of people in our society view and treat anyone outside the “norm” when it comes to sexual orientation or gender identity. How many times are people called “lesbian” or “queer” by people who consider this an insult and assume the other person will be offended by it? How many queer couples have had to put up with stares and hateful behavior from other people when they acknowledge their relationship in public?
**If you follow me on Litsy (or know me in real life), you know that I am slightly obsessed with a British show called In the Flesh. Tragically, this show was cancelled after only two seasons; however, if you haven’t experienced this magical show you should start watching it IMMEDIATELY. Seriously though- stop reading this review and start streaming this show on Amazon! In the Flesh is one of my all-time favorite shows and it has QUEER ZOMBIES! I’m not even kidding. AND zombieism in society is used as a very obvious allegory for homosexuality in society – zombies are slowly reintegrated into society after they are “treated” but these zombies and their families still face a lot of backlash (and often physical violence) when anyone finds out about them. And there are so many great relationships in this show – romantic, familial and friendship. Okay. Sorry. Enough of this tangent. For now – I may make a separate post about In the Flesh in the future.**
Anywhooooooooo. These stories really are fantastic. From creepy and gross zombies eating brains to intriguing origin stories of zombies to a freakin’ trans nobleman falling for a pornographer/ prostitute dude as they fight zombies. Seriously tho – was this anthology created just for me? It feels like it, since it’s all I could have asked for AND MORE. I’m going to briefly talk about each of the short stories now and there may be some minor spoilers, so feel free to skip the rest of this review if you want to avoid spoilers and you can come back once you’ve read this anthology.
“Dove in the Window” – Kara Race-Moore
This one was probably my least favorite but I still really liked it. It was a bit slower than the others and it took longer to connect to the characters for me. It was a very sweet story about two girls who loved each other – even after death. One of them dies and comes back as a ghost for a bit (because of magic OFC) and this provides them the opportunity to say goodbye. It also allows the girl who was still alive to get closure and move on to an exciting new life on the road with a traveling performing troupe.
“Only Human” – Meredith Katz
This was definitely one of my favorites (I love a good romance – especially when the characters are so sweet!). Guy gets cursed and in order to remove the curse he has to “put dead flesh into [his] body in a sexual context.” Luckily, he lives in a world with nice and attractive zombies. He convinces this adorable zombie dude to help him and they end up falling in love. One of my fave things about this story was that the MC is bisexual and both he and this girl he previously hooked up with make assumptions about each other and correct each other on these assumptions- he assumes her new partner is male and she points out that it’s her girlfriend and later on she assumes his new partner is female and he points out that it’s his boyfriend. Okay, it doesn’t sound as funny when I describe it, but I promise it’s funny in the story. The idea that we can have a fun zombie story with a bisexual MC is like a dream come true for my dark little cold bi heart.
“Lavish are the Undead” – B.A. Huntley
This one was kind of weird but fun. Girl is at the gym when a sort-of zombie apocalypse happens – people start turning into life size porcelain dolls and killing everyone. She races to save her girlfriend, who is trapped on the top of a super tall building and can’t take the stairs because she’s in a wheelchair. They manage to escape the quarantined zone, but it’s a little touch and go for a while. Both of these ladies are very badass and awesome – adorable couple and interesting take on the zombie genre.
“The Eighth Tree” – Alex Stitt
This one was a cool concept as well – zombification through experimental gas used on enemy soldiers during wartime. Two fellow soldiers are stranded in no-mans land (because their commanding officer caught them in a compromising position) and don’t have a chance of escaping, until their former regiment is gassed and turned into zombies. The ensuing confusion allows them to escape with their lives.
“Orion Shone Right Through” – Dmitri Dene
This one was a lot of fun because I think it’s a situation that most of us would not want to be in – during the zombie apocalypse, you end up in a group with your ex-partner and their current partner (who is non-binary and very nice and hard to resent). This group is attempting to escape the city in hopes of finding somewhere safe and Marcus is constantly reminded of some of the extremely happy and sad moments of his relationship with his ex-partner (while battling zombies – it’s a little distracting!).
“A Witch in Arkham” – Cora Walker
This story about a bisexual witch in a very magical and dangerous town was another one I really enjoyed. The MC gets roped into searching for a missing man with a (very hot and badass) Templar Commander who is part of a religious group that tracks down and punishes magical people. Shenanigans ensue and these two ladies end up fighting for their lives against unseen and dangerous enemies. I really liked the setting in this story – magic and religious military forces in a constant battle for power and hordes of corpses that are constantly reanimated to fight in these battles.
“Zoey Loves Zombies” – Adele Gardner
This story was such a good one – sweet love leads to a deadly grudge. The MC Zoey is finally convinced by her girlfriend Indigo to leave town after living in a zombie-plagued neighborhood. Before they can leave, Indigo is bitten and slowly becomes a zombie. Zoey does everything she can to try to keep her alive but can’t kill her once Indigo becomes full-zombie. When the neighborhood watch group threatens Indigo’s second life, Zoey protects her and vows to get revenge for Indigo and all of the other loved-ones-turned-zombies in their local cemetery. I really enjoyed how dark this story became and Zoey’s dedication to her zombie love – I was rooting for them in the end. Definitely dark and weird – Zoey laughs when Indigo “playfully” attempts to bite her and continues to kiss her and love her long after her body decomposed and becomes full zombie. I’m pretty sure Zoey goes on to reanimate all the corpses and stage a revolt against the living neighbors (who Zoey and Indigo did not trust with the truth of their relationship instead choosing to act as roommates). And I am 100% here for that.
“Noble Pursuit” – Helena Maeve
Ahhhh this one was fantastic as well! We really do not get enough stories with trans people in other time periods (or any time period really) and this one had a badass trans nobleman in Victorian England (or thereabouts, I’m really not great at identifying those different time periods. Let’s just say they rode horses and carriages and wore clothes that I’ve definitely read in other historical fiction during similar times). Lord Delaney is striving to protect his land and servants from the zombie hordes when a man comes to his estate who is rumored to hold power over the zombies. He later learns that Ephram was bitten but never turned and may have been a pornographer and prostitute in London. Ephram encourages Lord Delaney to be himself and they soon begin a romance. Lord Delaney’s deceased husband encouraged his partner to wear clothing befitting his gender identity while he lived, however, Lord Delaney has yet to go to social events wearing men’s clothing. With Ephram’s encouragement, he no longer forces himself to wear a dress when leaving his estate and kicks ass in the zombie fights. I will say that Lord Delaney’s brother is not accepting of his brother and constantly uses feminine pronouns despite being asked to do otherwise. This is the only real instance that I noticed (please correct me if I’m wrong) of misgendering, otherwise the majority of the story was very positive. Besides the whole zombies eating people thing of course.
In summation: READ THESE STORIES! If you love zombies. And queer characters. Who doesn’t, right????
This goes on sale on October 25th (next week) just in time for Halloween!
*I received a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review and want to thank NetGalley, Less Than Three Press and all of the authors for the opportunity to FINALLY read so many queer zombie stories!* (less)