Book Reviews: 'Zone One' and 'Dracula' Limited + Cafe Doom Contest

It's not unusual for a zombie novel to get mainstream attention these days, as it seems the whole world has gone head-over-heels for the undead. When the Centers for Disease Control is posting guides to surviving a zombie apocalypse on its website, well, it really doesn't get more mainstream than that. But Colson Whitehead's new novel Zone One, set in the ruins of New York City following a zombie uprising, is getting more than mainstream attention – it's getting a huge amount of mainstream respect. Esquire (hosting an excerpt of the book here) says the author "brilliantly reformulates an old-hat genre"; Kirkus says Whitehead "sinks his teeth into a popular format and emerges with a literary feast"; while Booklist lauds Zone One for being "covertly sensitive" and "ruminative."

All of this makes it sound as though people are surprised someone has written a smart horror novel. I suppose we should be used to this by now – no genre, except perhaps romance, gets noses turned up in its direction with more frequency than horror. It quit bothering me as a fan and occasional writer of the stuff a long time ago, and I doubt it keeps guys like Brian Keene and Jonathan Maberry up at night, either. But all of this praise sounds so much like "finally, a horror novel you won't be embarrassed to read" that it runs the risk of turning horror fans against the book.

Well, based on the excerpt I linked to above, the one Esquire is providing, Whitehead isn't turning his nose up at the gene – he's embracing it wholeheartedly. The excerpt details a tense room-by-room search of a large law office by civilians turned soldiers, most of whom have become too accustomed to this type of situation and are a little too relaxed in dangerous surroundings. Naturally, this spells trouble, and Whitehead takes us through the ensuing attack with style and gusto. This one doesn't appear to be a blood-spattered gorefest, but they all don't have to be, do they? I'll take clever, fresh and suspenseful any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Doubleday is releasing Zone One on October 18th, just in time for Halloween.

From potential classic to bona fide classic, there's another new edition of Dracula hitting the shelves, only this one is going to be a good deal more difficult to find. It's out now from small press publisher Kings Way Press, limited to 150 copies signed by Kings Way's Zach Powell, author Brian Lumley (who provides the introduction) and artist Alex McVey (cover and interior illustrations). It's a huge leather bound edition packed with not only the Bram Stoker classic but tons of extras, including a deleted chapter and an account of a "real" vampire written in the 1700s. You can take a look at the book and some of McVey's incredible artwork at the Cemetery Dance website.

Finally, are you a writer with a story you think is a potential classic? Looking for a way to get it out in front of people? Well, Café Doom is running its seventh annual short story contest, and it's open to all comers. You can read the guidelines on the Café Doom forum. Prizes include publication in an upcoming anthology complete with pro rate pay (five cents a word), and runners-up are in line for some nice Amazon gift vouchers. I entered (and won) this competition a couple of years ago, so I can vouch that it is a professionally run contest. This is a great way for newcomers in particular to get their stories out in front of people for some good honest feedback and a nice shot at publication. Good luck!

Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website ( Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.