This tweet got a reply from a favourite blogger of mine that went a little something like this...
Gavreads - @graemesfantasyb @AnnaGregson zombies??? In fantasy?? Nice!
My first thought was, ‘Gav doesn’t read a lot of fantasy does he?’ My second thought was, ‘maybe he’s being ironic?’ You see, the thing is, zombies are all over fantasy (and science fiction) like you wouldn’t believe. Ok, I might be stretching things a bit; I’m not a hundred percent sure what the difference between a zombie and a Lich is for example, or between a zombie and a Mummy for that matter. For the sake of this post, I’m going with a fairly loose definition of ‘human, recently returned from the dead with an overpowering desire to rend the living (and possibly eat them)’ ;o)
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that zombie fiction isn’t just about grim post apocalyptic survival (although this fiction is very cool). If you fancy seeing zombies in a slightly different setting then you could do worse than check some of these books out...
Anything from the Black Library
You’re a publisher that publishes books based around a tabletop wargame or two. Said war games give you the option to field armies consisting solely of the undead, you can guess where I’m going here... Yep, certain Black Library books are crammed full of zombies just waiting to be offed either by projectile weaponry or a dirty great big sword. Specific titles that I’ve reviewed include Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s ‘Cadian Blood’ and Nathan Long’s ‘Zombieslayer’. You could also pick up Mike Lee’s ‘Nagash’ trilogy (if you do, tell me what it’s like as I haven’t read it yet)
I can’t not include this book as there would be no post without it! Zombie action has grown lighter, as the book has progressed, but the opening scenes culminate in zombies eating an entire city. AN ENTIRE CITY people! Now that’s putting the ‘epic’ back in Epic Fantasy.
‘Leviathan Wakes’ – James S.A. Corey
I loved this book anyway (looking forward to the sequel) but all the more so because it had space zombies that absolutely would not stop in their quest to take a big old bite out of humanity. Essential reading for fans of Space Opera or fans of Space Zombies :o)
‘The Forge in the Forest’ – Michael Scott Rohan
I’m taking things a little ‘old school’ here with a book that was published just over twenty years ago. An old favourite of mine as well, I highly recommend this series to any fan of well written fantasy. But what about the zombies? Well... What’s the one thing that’s worse than loosing all your travelling companions in the midst of a dark and forbidding forest? When they all come back from the dead to make certain that you join them... Those particular passages scared me back in the day and they still do now.
Abaddon Book’s ‘Tomes of the Dead’ series
I had to think hard about whether to include these books, or not, as most of them are either set in the present day or are tied to a particular point in history. As a whole though, the series deserves to be mentioned here so I’ll highlight Al Ewing’s ‘I, Zombie’ (sci-fi/horror), Paul Finch’s ‘Stronghold’ (historical background but the use of Welsh legend swung it for me) and Toby Venables’ ‘The Viking Dead’ (which I still haven’t read but the blurb merits its inclusion). Oh the hell with it, give ‘Anno Mortis’ a go as well.
‘Deathtroopers’ & ‘Red Harvest’ – Joe Schreiber
The universe of Star Wars is vast and, as such, there’s room for a little bit of everything... including zombies. A couple of chilling reads here that fans of zombies and Star Wars (but probably mostly Star Wars) will enjoy.
‘Shadow Prowler’ – Alexhey Pehov
Now here’s a book that was roundly slated when it was published in English; not by me though, it was a light fun read that proved to be just what I was after at the time. And it has zombies in it :o) Certain readers here might not know this but, as a rule, if there’s an deserted town or treasure filled crypt in fantasyland then you’ll find zombies lurking around all sorts of corners within. That’s what you’re looking at here and, possible translation issues to one side, it’s all done very nicely.
And now I’m starting to struggle a bit, serves me right for not making a list beforehand like I promised myself I would. Without going into specifics (because I don’t know any), D&D tie-in fiction has to be a massive resource for reading about the undead what with all those tombs etc waiting to be broken into (and evil necromancers doing their thing). I’m wracking my brains trying to remember if Conan has fought the living dead (any the pen of any author, not just Howard) but I’m pretty sure that Elric has.
Hopefully I’ve shown, a little bit at least, that zombies aren’t limited to the bombed out cities of apocalyptic fiction. Please help me fill in the massive gaps I’ve left by adding any further reading suggestions in the comments below...