Thursday, December 11, 2014

Children of the Undead

Children Undead


Not a frequent reader of zombie novels, I didn't expect to read Children of the Undead immediately after I bought it on the recommendation of a friend. But checking to be sure that the book had downloaded to my Kindle, I had read the first chapter before I paused. It's that kind of book. You just keep reading. Children of the Undead is engrossing--for its fast-moving story, for its wit and humor, for its sometimes biting political and social commentary, for its general intelligence. I highly recommend it. ~ Review by George Eliot

Guest article by David Dvorkin

This isn't your run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse. The dead are digging their way out of their graves, but they aren't after brains, at least not primarily. Above all, they want their homes and jobs back. Not that they would object to the occasional nice serving of brains, especially if it comes with a side of pickles.

When Jerry Morgenstern and his sister Lily go to Florida to clear out their dead parents’ condominium, they expect it to be an unpleasant task. They have no idea how unpleasant it will turn out to be. The unpleasantness begins when their dead parents show up and tell them to clear out. The hungry looks the rotting zombies keep casting at their children’s heads don’t help matters. Nor do the numerous old zombies suddenly roaming the sidewalks.

Back home after that trip, Jerry discovers that the dead founder of the pickle manufacturer where he works has also returned and reclaimed his place. That, however, causes less disruption than you might expect. Having a murderous zombie CEO in charge is not all that different from business as usual.

Only later will Jerry learn the dreadful secret behind the extraordinary popularity of the pickles sold by his employer and how those pickles are involved in the epidemic of zombies suddenly infesting America. He will learn about a lot of other things, too, that he really didn’t want to know anything about, such as zombie bacteria and giant tentacles emerging from under the earth.

When the girl of his dreams reacts to a tragedy by throwing herself into his arms, he learns something else: that dreams can turn suddenly and unexpectedly into nightmares.

Children of the Undead is a tale of parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends, bosses, employees, wives, ex–wives, friends’ wives, politicians, studly bacteria, zombies, tentacles, politics, religion, giant screaming earth mothers, and the armpit and other regions of Hell.

And pickles.

Excerpt  from CHAPTER ONE

Lily Morgenstern Flicker groaned. “Christ, look at this place.”

“The sooner we start,” Jerry Morgenstern said, “the sooner we can put it on the market. You take the bedroom closet. I’ll take the hall closet.”

“You’re taking the easy one.”

Jerry sighed. “Let’s not argue, now that it’s finally over. Okay, we’ll switch. I’ll take the bedroom.”

“Wait a minute. That’s where all the valuable stuff is. Maybe I should take the bedroom, after all.”

“Jesus Christ.”

Jerry was about to say more when he realized that his sister was looking with horror at something behind him. Her face was pale, her mouth was open, and her eyes were wide.

He spun around and found himself facing his father. Jerry’s expression began to resemble his sister’s.

The old man was dressed in the suit he had been wearing when the coffin lid was closed on him. The undertaker’s caked–on makeup still covered his face, but it was cracking and falling off in pieces. Or maybe it was his skin that was falling off. Jerry couldn’t tell for sure.

“Still bickering,” his father said. “You kids will never stop. What are you doing in my condo?”

“Who are you?” Lily asked.

“I’ve been dead for a week, and already you’ve forgotten me? I’m not surprised. I told your mother it would be that way.”

“But you’re dead,” Jerry said. “You can’t be Dad.”

“I was dead. Didn’t like it. Told them I was going home.”

“You can do that?” Jerry asked. “When you’re dead?”

“You think I was going to let them tell me what to do? What are you doing in my condo?” he repeated.

Ignoring him, Jerry said to Lily, “It’s some sort of scam. This guy’s pretending to be Dad so he can get hold of the condo and sell it.”

“Sell it?” the older man said. “Of course not. We’re going to live in it, just like always.”

Lily looked around the place, her nose wrinkling. “You call this living?”

“We?” Jerry said.

“I had to walk all the way from the cemetery,” his father said. “In my condition. Why didn’t you leave my car there?”

“We didn’t think you’d ever need it again,” Lily said. “We, um, we got rid of it.”

“You sold it? I bet you didn’t get enough for it. You always let people take advantage of you. Where’s the money?”

“We gave it away,” Jerry said. “To a charity. It was for a good cause.”

“You mean someone told you it was for a good cause, and you believed them,” his father said. He shook his head from side to side. His neck creaked and cracked, and small bits of leathery tissue floated down.

Jerry was afraid the head would fall off. He was torn between an urge to leap forward and hold the head in place and an urge to run like hell.

“You were always so naïve,” his father said. “Such a good brain, but so naïve. Brain,” he repeated. “I’m hungry.” He turned away and opened the door of the refrigerator. The refrigerator was empty. “Where are the pickled peppers?”

“Pickles?” Lily said.

“Piper’s Pickled Peppers. We always keep a jar or two in here. I love them.” He turned back toward Jerry and glared at him accusingly. “Did you eat them? Just because you work there doesn’t give you the right to eat up all the Piper’s Pickled Peppers.”

“I didn’t touch the damned things.”

“Watch your language when you’re in my house!” Jerry’s father stepped forward threateningly.

Jerry stepped back. “After you, er, after you left, there was a lot of old food in there. We had to get rid of it.”

“You threw away the Piper’s Pickled Peppers?” his father roared. “What’s wrong with you?”

“I’ll get you some more, okay? Never mind that right now. You said we’re going to live here. Who’s we?”

The front door opened and a woman walked in.

She looked like their mother but less so than the old man looked like their father. He looked like a dead man fresh from the coffin. She looked like a dead woman who was very unfresh. Bone showed through here and there on her face, and the dress she had been buried in hung limply on her in a way that made Jerry suspect that she was mostly bone underneath it. If this was a scam, the makeup was remarkable.

“I’m exhausted,” she said. “That was a long walk.” She noticed the brother and sister, and her face contorted stiffly into what could have been an expression of pleasure.

“Lily!” she said. “Jerry! It’s so wonderful to see you children again!”

Before Jerry could react, she had stepped forward and embraced him.

He responded automatically by putting his arms around her. On one side of her back, he could feel her ribs and the spaces between them. The other side felt normal. Up close, the smell of decay was staggering.

He managed to escape and to step away from her. “It’s not a scam,” he said to Lily. “They’re real.”

“Oh, Jesus. It’s not possible!”

“I read that there’s more solar flux in Florida because of global warming.”

“What’s solar flux?”

“Something to do with the sun. Maybe it energized them.”

His father stared at Jerry’s forehead. “You always were the one with the brains.” He tore his eyes away. “I don’t know how long you kids were planning to stay. Lily, you can have the guest bedroom. Jerry, you’ll sleep on the couch. You’ll have to find your own food. Except for those pickled peppers, your mother and I don’t eat in the old way anymore.” His gaze drifted back to Jerry’s forehead.


Children of the Undead


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