This week on Weirdfictionreview.com, we’re featuring Strangers in the Land, the most recent installment in the Zombie Bible series written by Stant Litore, published by 47North. Other books in the series include Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows and What Our Eyes Have Witnessed, all of which are available in trade paperback and e‑book form.
Doubtlessly, WFR readers are familiar with zombies in film, through classic movies like Night of the Living Dead and popular TV shows such as The Walking Dead (itself based on an acclaimed comic book series). Zombie fiction seems to enjoy less public visibility overall than zombie film, but that hasn’t stopped books like Max Brooks’s World War Z from becoming bestsellers. Unfortunately, sometimes zombie stories and their inherent monsters fall into the pit of cliché, as any other popular horror trope does at some point or another, until it is reinvigorated or innovated in some way (the line between iconic and cliché can occasionally be too thin for comfort).
That said, there is a strong degree of overlap between the best of zombie stories and the appeal and effects of weird fiction. Consider the zombie story in its perhaps most essential form: the human body made alien; the flesh in revolt against itself; the negation of life and the uprising of something else we don’t understand; the feeding of once-human upon still-human, a deeply transgressive and terrifying act for many. At an existential, deep-gut level, zombie stories can be profoundly unsettling. I’m thinking of Night of the Living Dead, with the zombified little girl devouring the flesh of her father, unthinking, operating on an instinct foreign and frightening to us.
That kind of existential concern with zombies and what they mean to us is very much at the heart of Strangers in the Land and the rest of the stories in the Zombie Bible series. The threat of the undead, in the context of these particular stories, is at the heart of ancient Hebrew society. Rules of kosher living and cleanliness are created and refined as consequence to living with the undead, as are burial rites. And, at times, the existence of the undead in the first place makes characters question their relationships with God and what kind of role He has in mind for them and the undead in the first place. In a world created and ruled by an omniscient being, does the existence of zombies betray the possibly indifferent or even malignant nature of God, or does it suggest something else entirely? What does the afterlife even mean if your body can be reanimated against your will?
Strangers in the Land and the other installments in the Zombie Bible series are well worth checking out. By transplanting zombie tropes and traditions to Biblical stories and characters, both elements are equally invigorated with creativity and relevance. The tone of the stories is appropriately apocalyptic, which takes on an even greater intensity given the faith of the characters and the setting. There is added value as a reader if you are familiar with the Bible and the characters used wherein (Strangers in the Land takes its cue from Judges 4 and the story of Deborah), but that book and the series as a whole isn’t written from an evangelical viewpoint. Instead, it treats the Biblical figures it utilizes as round characters with their own hopes, fears, and desires; their faith is important to them, naturally, and even plays a key role in their fear of the undead, but the reader does not need to share their faith to become engrossed in their stories.
We hope you enjoy the exclusive excerpt we’ve posted from Strangers in the Land, “Navi,” in addition to our interview with the author about his work on the Zombie Bible series and his impressions of weird fiction and horror, among other things. Strangers in the Land, like the other books in its series, is a standalone story that can be read independent from the installments before it, but do be sure to check out the other books if you enjoy this one.