When is a zombie not a zombie? Dictionary.com (the ONLY dictionary I use, mainly because it’s easier than using a real dictionary) defines “zombie” for us:
1. (in voodoo):
a. the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose;
b. the supernatural force itself.
a. a person whose behavior or responses are wooden, listless, or seemingly rote; automaton;
b. an eccentric or peculiar person.
3. a snake god worshiped in West Indian and Brazilian religious practices of African origin.
4. a tall drink made typically with several kinds of rum, citrus juice, and often apricot liqueur.
5. Canadian Slang: an army conscript assigned to home defense during World War II.
1810–20; apparently < Kongo or Kimbundu nzambi god
None of those definitions are what most of us think when we think “zombie.” I know what I think when I think “zombie.” I think of a decaying corpse that relentlessly pursues the living in order to feast on their flesh. We can all thank George A. Romero, for that. Night of the Living Dead redefined zombies.
For the most part, the zombies of today in movies, television, books, graphic novels, and video games are flesh eating, shambling corpses, except for when they don’t shamble and they run really fast. Fast or slow, they crave flesh. They are fuckers.
Which brings me to my point. I was reading a horror story this morning, and I found myself hoping that the monster in the story would be a zombie, but not a typical zombie. The monster in the story ended up being a messy conglomeration of things and I found myself skimming through the end of the story, annoyed that I’d invested my time only to discover a possum/crab thing that thinks. The value in the possum/crab was that it made me think of a couple of rocking books that feature zombies that weren’t really zombies.
The first one that comes to mind is Ronald Malfi’s Snow. I stumbled on this in Walmart, of all places, several years ago. It’s a great, suspenseful read. It’s a zombie story that isn’t a zombie story.
Second highly recommended zombie-type book is Simon Clark’s Blood Crazy. Rare and often expensive, you can get a decently priced used paperback copy from book stores that advertise on Amazon.com, or you can do what I did, which is bug the publisher to make it available for Kindle.
If anyone else has a similar recommendation, I’d love to hear it!
If you are interested in zombies that ARE zombies, check out my new ebook, Zombies Take Manhattan!