Reviewed by Dave Thompson: “The Undead Have Never Been So Fresh (or Funny)”
The living dead seem to be rising just about everywhere you turn, and these days the zombie apocalypse is feeling a bit run of the mill. Do not let this keep you from checking out Raising Stony Mayhall — one of the most delightful zombie books I’ve read.
There’s a trope in zombie fiction of a loved one being infected, and instead of being killed by family in friends, he’s restrained and shackled. Almost always this ends badly, but author Daryl Gregory goes against the grain and starts off his tale in the late sixties, just after a Romero-esque zombie uprising, when a widow and her three daughters find a dead woman and baby in the snow. When the baby starts moving, they decide to take him in, and teach him about life, humanity, family, friendship, and sacrifice. Meet Stony Mayhall, and follow him as he impossibly grows up, and goes out into the world.
You can tell Gregory had a blast writing — all the familiar zombie trappings are here, but turned on their heads. There’s blood and guts and uprisings, sure, but there’s also crazy zombie evangelicals and zombie hitmen, would-be superhero zombies, pulp writers and protesters, Deadtown, and so much more I’d hate to give it away because it wouldn’t be as funny when you hear it (and as well as being charming, this book is always very, very funny). In short, Stony does his best to try and keep things together, even while everything (including himself) is falling apart.
This was David Marantz’s debut as an audiobook reader, but he handles it like a veteran, breathing life (or whatever passes for it with zombie protagonists) into Stony, Delia, Mr. Blunt, Captain Callhoun — and made listening to this book a total delight.
Gregory’s third novel will leave you wondering why his other two aren’t out in audio already, and will leave you eager for whatever he does next.
Dave Thompson is the host and co-editor of PodCastle, the fantasy fiction audio magazine. His own fiction has been published by Bull Spec and Apex Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @krylyr.