Divided into four sections, Afterlife, Spirit, Flesh, and Undead, Better Off Undead promises stories ranging from “the humorous to the chilling”. Although some of the stories did elicit a smile every now and then, most of the chills I got were from flipping the pages to find a story worth reading. For instance, Sarah A. Hoyt’s “A Grain of Salt” is like an Asian Dante’s Inferno, except written by a fifth grader. The story was crammed with useless information and descriptions that defied all reason; for instance, “The unicorn looked up and managed to look amused, though his features were not at all like a human face”, um, ok.
Other stories, although well-written, begged the question as to why they were included in a book of undead. For instance, Irene Radford’s “Museum Hauntings” seemed more at home in a collection of chick lit. In "My Tears Have Been My Meat" Nina Kiriki Hoffman hits a nerve with the unsettling story of an abused wife escaping her tormentor, but this collection doesn’t seem like the appropriate venue for the topic.
The Afterlife and Spirit sections were the weakest of the four. Afterlife is saved with the inclusion of Esther M. Friesner’s “Mummy Knows Best”. Spirit, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Lacking not only in chills, content and depth are missing as well. With such offerings as Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s "Genius Loci", reads like a commercial for This Old House, except with less content and impact. Thankfully Flesh and Undead come through with witty, creative and entertaining writing that will make you glad that you didn’t give up the cause.
The good news about this collection of stories is no two are the same; so you’re bound to find something that appeals to you. However, I recommend that you read it in summer, you might as well enjoy the cooling effect of the pages as you breeze through trying to find it.
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: DAW (November 4, 2008)