Back in the ‘80s and ’90s—during my time as a bookstore manager—zombies weren’t even on the radar when it came to genre fiction fodder. Sure, there were some well-written and innovative zombie-powered novels on the shelves (like Lansdale’s Dead in the West and Lumley’s Ship of Dreams, to name just a few) but, for the most part, it was all about the vampire: Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Yarbro’s Saint-Germain Cycle, Huff’s Blood saga, McCammon’s They Thirst, GRRM’s Fevre Dream, etc.
But a lot has changed since then—so much so that I would say the last decade (2003-2013) has been nothing short of a Golden Age for zombie fiction. Zombies now rule the roost when it comes to supernatural entities in genre fiction. I’ve already explored the elite zombie fiction series of all time (Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime trilogy, et. al.), so let’s give a little undead love to some of the best zombie novels of the last decade!
Honestly, I could’ve doubled or tripled this list, but that would have made for an unwieldy blog. In the last decade, virtually hundreds of ground-breaking and undeniably extraordinary zombie novels have been released, and while I couldn’t include all of the zombie novels that have blown me away over the last ten years on this list, I have narrowed it down to 20 bloody literary gems.
And for those of you out there who think that zombie fiction is all the same, I beg to differ. This list includes science fiction, horror, urban fantasy, apocalyptic fiction, romance, tongue-in-cheek parody, literary fiction, bizarro fiction, and alternate history titles. Zombies are everywhere, my friends, and if the phenomenal popularity of The Walking Dead is any indication, I think they’re here to stay for quite some time.
If you want the crème de la crème of zombie fiction, here’s your list!
20. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry (2009)
19. Necro Sex Machine by Andre Duza (2008)
18. The Becoming by Jessica Meigs (2011)
17. Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore (2011)
16. Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Loureiro (2012)
15. Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2010)
14. The Panama Laugh by Thomas S. Roche (2011)
13. Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry (2006)
12. Day by Day Armageddon by J. L. Bourne (2009)
11. The Rising by Brian Keene (2003)
10. By the Blood Of Heroes by Joseph Nassis (2012)
9. Zone One by Colson Whitehead (2011)
8. Dust by Joan Frances Turner (2010)
7. Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory (2011)
6. Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier (2011)
I love this book, which is essentially a choose-your-own-adventure for adults. Insanely entertaining, this is a must-read for anyone who considers themselves a zombie fiction fan.
5. Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall (2010)
Set inside a hotel during a Star Trek convention, this look at a zombie apocalypse is laugh-out-loud funny and a book to be absolutely cherished by Trekkies and zombie fiction fans alike.
4. World War Z by Max Brooks (2006)
3. Monster Island by David Wellington (2004)
2. The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer (2010)
In Beamer’s brilliant debut novel, the zombie virus is transmitted through sexual content and those turned into zombies become “all id and no ego; entirely focused on pleasures of the flesh.”
1. The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater (2012)
Set in a world where humankind is all but extinct, this extraordinary novel is vividly realized science fiction, visceral zombie fiction, visionary apocalyptic fiction, and, above all else, a heartrending romance. I’ve read hundreds, maybe thousands of zombie-powered storylines, but I’ve never read anything quite like this unforgettable novel.
How do you feel about Paul’s list? Did he leave out any of your favorites? Discuss!