A different take on zombie pop culture

Photo by Kevin Steinbach

Dead North, a collection of short stories, the eerie cover foretells the dark tales that lie within.

Canada is often called the Great White North. The anthology of Canadian zombie fiction, Dead North, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia makes a comical pun of that popular moniker.

Dead North is the eighth book of the Exile Book of Anthology Series, featuring a total of 20 horror stories by different authors, each with a style and perspective that ranges from classic zombie survival to tales of tragedy, romance and hope.

Kicking off with Tyler Keevil’s “The Herd”, readers are introduced to the Great White North, quite literally. The story is placed in a tundra in the middle of winter. The perspective is from the view of a hunter. Keevil describes the landscape as “stark and harsh” and compares it to a blank page. He calls it “a map with no borders, no boundaries” in which anything is possible. “Here you are free to cross over,” writes Keevil, “to transgress.” The hunter must negotiate this “map of madness” alone.

Not only is the cold world empty of both life and humanity, the hunter is cold and empty as well: a man who will do anything to survive.

“Waiting for Jenny Rex” by Melissa Yuan-Ines is a heart-wrenching love story that focuses on the journalist Josh, who falls in love with Jenny Reed. Jenny Reed died from anorexia and returned as a zombie. Thinking that her undead state will grant her lots of attention, she hopes to become a spokesperson for anorexia.

Yuan-Ines goes into deep detail on the intimacy and complicated feelings Josh and Jenny share. “I kissed her. She kissed me back,” she writes. The moment lasts long enough for Josh to “touch her cheek.” After which Jenny “turned away, like she always did.”

“Waiting for Jenny Rex” is an unlikely love story. Yet this situation is the most relatable one in any relationship. Josh loves Jenny for who she is but Jenny can’t accept herself based on how she looks. Anorexia haunted her in life and it haunts her in death. This touching short story has that popular undead touch with Yuan-Ives’ detailed description of Jenny’s skeletal appearance. But it also focuses on real issues and digs deep into emotions like love. Throughout this story one can’t help but root for Josh and Jenny.

Dead North is for those who love zombie pop culture but want something completely different. The twenty short stories in Dead North take the reader on a journey through Canada in ways that illustrate depths and heights of emotion, horror and mystery.