Reviewbr> "I wish we could be together forever. What did you wish for, Daddy?" - Katie
Issue 4 of After the World continues Editor Baden Kirgan's change in direction for the title. For those with short memories, the first two Issues were novellas of the pulp fiction variety, always a bonus around these here parts, while the latest two Issues have been in magazine format with one central story, and a collection of supporting acts. In effect you get a mini anthology each Issue, assuming the current format is retained, while still pretty much getting a novella. While Issue 4 retains the new format there is a return to the past. Let's get down to the printed word.
Adam Colston kicks things off with Preacher Man, a yarn told from a zombie's point of view, yeah I know there's been a few of those over the last year or so as the shambling dead get ever further attention. Flavour of the month and all that. Anyway Colston is in particularly fine form with a story that conveys both the pain and longing of the re-animated as their humanity itches away. Okay the story is pretty much a flash piece, but it hits with some solid sustained ghastly images.
Bringing in the Sci-Fi elements Dead Man Walking by David Kernot goes in an entirely unexpected resurrection tangent, all about the science don't you know, and throws one hell of a decision at the feet of the protagonist, Jonah. Kernot has a very visual style, which is pretty much space opera influenced in my unworthy opinion, so I was rocking on beyond the stars with this one.
Hold onto your knickers kids Jason Fischer delivers his long awaited sequel to After the World: Gravesend, Corpus Christi. For those playing catch up here Tamsyn Webb and team have survived the zombie apocalypse in England and have set sail for America, a radio signal promising safety and shelter, all told in the first book. We catch up with Tamsyn aboard a becalmed ship and things get worse for them from there. A pleasure cruiser filled with zombies, the Texan city of Corpus Christi now a fortified bastion against the zombie hordes, and a suicide mission to retrieve of all things salt. Fischer once again knocks one out of the ball park and for sure I'm now sweating on another chapter in this series.
Changing things up and ensuring we don't forget we're in pulp fiction land here, Eugene Gramelis presents Digging For Dandelions, a tale that not only mixes in a bit of Eerie creepiness, but hits the old adage be careful what you wish for, all wrapped up in an awesome dose of resurrection dreams, or perhaps that should be life after death or some such. Anyways this tale of the macabre has more twists than your large intestine and keeps coming at you with entirely new night terrors.
Not content with exploring zombieland and resurrection alley Editor Kirgan delivers for our benefit Jason Nahrung's An Incident At Portsea, 1967, a story with a touch of the Cthulhu mythos about it. I was actually surprised by the inclusion of this yarn, doesn't seem to fit the overall aesthetic for mine, but had a fine time reading it. Guess I'm always up for a bit of black magic and summoning in my reading matter.
And finally Someone's Misplaced the Moon sees author Cameron R D Laird get away from horror completely with an almost fantasy tale of Gods and disappearing moons. I leave the reader to determine the dark quota in this excursion, I wasn't seeing any.
The inherent danger for any serialised anthology publication is that individual issues will stray from the core concept and not deliver unto the reader what is expected from each issue. I believe this is starting to happen with After the World, please note I'm not saying this is a bad thing, just pointing out the obstacles put in the road. While I can groove to the expansion from a purely zombie basis to an examination of death, after all Stephen King has pointed out horror is all about preparing for death, I have to say that stories like An Incident At Portsea, 1967 and Someone's Misplaced the Moon are getting well off the reservation and won't resonate quite so well with some readers.
Okay putting any content issues aside for the moment I have to say that you get a bloody good collection with Issue 4 of After the World. I read a whole bunch of anthologies each year, Australian publishing houses simply love themselves some dark genre anthologies, and would argue that that After the World matches the best the Country has to offer. You get good meaty stories without anyone feeling that things should go up market or surrealistic. Baden Kirgan holds to the pulp fiction approach, so if after a ripping read to quell your blood urges then you are in the right place. Pulp fiction can rise to be very solid literature and Issue 4 is proof positive of the value the approach has to dark genre literature. I can't wait for Issue 5 and give this one a full recommendation, drop whatever you are doing and order a copy today!
You should be able to pick up After The World Issue 4 from your local Newsagent, if not ask them to order in, though mine, catering as they are to a mouth breathing audience, clearly can't find their collective arses with both hands on this front. You can order online from Black Boox, which is my preferred approach, though you do incur some P&H cost. Almost forgot the magazine will set you back $5, about the price of a schooner of beer in an upmarket Sydney bar.