We continue our journey through the Rock and Shock 2015 bookshelf and today we come to one that will forever live next to my volume of Grimm’s Fairytales:
Once Upon An Apocalypse
Forward by Jonathan Maberry
Edited by Scott T. Goudsward & Rachel Kenley
Genre: Horror, Zombies, Fractured Fairy Tales
3 Sentence Synopsis: Think of all of your favorite fairy tales. Ok, now leave behind your pre-conceptions and add a zombie apocalypse. That’s what this anthology is.
Longer Book Description:
Fairy tales are fantastical tales in which anything—absolutely anything—can happen. Most fairy tales don’t involve fairies. Some have morals, some don’t. Some are for kids, some aren’t. The oldest were told by adults to adults.
Fairy tales are populated by the weird and the bizarre. Elves and dragons, bridge trolls and deep-sea mermaids, sprites and goblins, talking animals and talking trees and sometimes, even fairies. There are no limits to what can be used in a fairy tale, or to what a fairy tale can be about.
Once Upon an Apocalypse contains fairy tales about zombies. Or, in some cases, zombie stories with fairies, or even fairy tales in which zombies also appear.
If you’ve never read real fairy tales then you might ask: “Wait, aren’t fairy tales cute stories about talking bunnies and Disney characters?” The answer is yes and no.
Not the old ones. If you never read the Brothers Grimm are you in for a shock! The ‘fairy tale ending’ we’ve come to know is a far cry from what Jacob and Wilhelm were writing back in early nineteenth century. Things tend to end very, very badly for the characters—even the good guys. Not all of the stories in Once Upon an Apocalypse are scary. Some are hilarious, some are tragic, and some are disturbing. However each contains a spark of real magic—that special element separating these stories from others of the horror genre.
In fairy tales absolutely anything can happen. There are no rules and there are few happy endings. These are fairy stories, and they’re zombie stories, and they are absolutely magical.
And we mean that in the least-comforting way possible. [amazon.com]
I’ll start off by saying that I really enjoy reading dark and reimagined fairytales.
In my bookish youth I was constantly searching out books like Gregory Maguire’s Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Wicked, and Mirror Mirror.
I also thrived on disturbingly bizarre things like The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.
I could go on and on just about that obsession of mine, but then I’d be getting reeeaaally off topic…
So, long story short, I found this collection of incredibly dark and adult stories to be right up my twisted alley.
On the whole, it is a very well put together collection. Each of the stories approach the zombie lore uniquely and told the stories in very surprising ways.
And, thankfully, none of them felt like the sadly mashed together mess that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was. (Never read that book, btw. If you want classics with an undead twist read this instead).
Some stories were stronger than others, but the majority of the tales grabbed me and made quite the impression. So much so that I’m tempted to gush over each one individually, but I’ll just pick my top 4 to mention.
Mary had a Little Limb by Wendy Dabrowski
This Mary had a Little Lamb re-telling was incredibly gross, equally disturbing, and had me laughing like a maniac the whole time. Immortal Alexander kept looking up from editing and asking, “what happened now?”
Wednesday’s Goats by Justin Short
This story is based on the Three Billy Goats Gruff. In this world humanity has been reduced to shambling, biting piles of undead flesh and the only creatures left alive on the planet are goats and birds.
This story totally surprised me. It started off pretty close to the original telling and then when headlong into Walking Dead survival territory.
I freaking loved the humor and tone of this one. For example, the goats were named Linen, Aluminium, and Cardboard. LOL! I can totally imagine goats naming themselves like that. After their favorite food, perhaps?
Alice’s Undead Adventures by Amber Keller
Alice in Wonderland lends itself incredibly well to a zombie apocalypse already, but Keller’s explanation of the contagion using Wonderland logic is so much fun.
I also tagged a bunch of quotes from this story in particular because I loved the language of it so much. You should see my copy right now, it looks like a parade with all of it’s colored sticky-tabs hanging outside of it’s pages.
Steadfast in the Face of Zombies by Trisha J. Wooldridge
On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum came this retelling of The Steadfast Tin Soldier. This story is told through letters written between two lovers separated by war and a quickly spreading zombie contagion. It is written with an atmospheric nod to the Vietnam war.
Peter, our brave soldier with the bum leg, joins the fight overseas to try and protect the US from the zombie outbreak, while his beloved ballerina, Suzanne, remains stateside. She is not a passive creature either and they both end up in dire straights throughout the course of the story leading to the beautifully tragic ending.
Seriously, just thinking about this story is making me cry.
It parallelled the Tin Soldier story beautifully, yet did so in a way that made you forget you were reading a re-telling of it.
Buy it, read it, love it, repeat.
This is a fantastic book that everyone who loves horror, or zombies, or twisted fairy tales is going to love. 5 out of 5 Zombified Blood spattered stars.
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