Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier
Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster, Sept. 21, 2010

I've always loved fantasy, science fiction and books about the paranormal or supernatural. But even though I read my way through Anne Rice's oeuvre as a teenager and am a lifelong fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I have to admit I'm getting a little tired of books about vampires. So I was thrilled to pick up a new teen anthology of supernatural stories that has nothing to do with vampires. Instead, readers get to decide which they like better: zombies or unicorns!

Each story in Zombies vs. Unicorns is about either zombies or unicorns, although Garth Nix's story "The Highest Justice" blurs the boundaries a bit with a unicorn who can bring the dead briefly back to shambling life. Other contributors include Cassandra Clare, Naomi Novik, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot and Libba Bray, whose "Prom Night" is a standout. By turns gory, sensual, funny and somber, these stories may surprise, disgust or delight you, but they'll surely change the way you think about zombies and unicorns. And vampires? Who needs vampires?

Zombies vs. Unicorns

Here's an excerpt from "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Alaya Dawn Johnson, an impressive story by an author who was new to me:

Think of it like the best macaroni and cheese you've ever had. No neon yellow Velveeta and bread crumbs. I'm talking gourmet cheddar, the expensive stuff from Vermont that crackles as it melts into that crust on top. Imagine if right before you were about to tear into it, the mac and cheese starts talking to you? And it's really cool. It likes Joy Division more than New Order, and owns every Sonic Youth album, and saw you in the audience at the latest Arctic Monkeys concert, though you were too stoned to notice anything but the clearly sub-par cheesy mac you'd brought with you.

And here's an excerpt from "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" by Diana Peterfreund, whose books Rampant (2009) and Ascendant (out Sept. 28, 2010) are at the forefront of the unicorn subgenre:
There's a bad drawing beneath the words, nothing like the blurry photos on the news, or the pictures you've seen of the corpses. The unicorn on the sign looks like one from the old fairy books, white, rearing, its mane flying out behind it in artful spirals. Just like a fairy tale, except for the fangs and the blood red eyes.
..."Maybe [it's] a fake one," says Katey, clinging to her boyfriend, Noah. "They have this patented process where they graft the horns of a baby goat together, and it grows up with one horn. Like a bonsai tree. We learned about it in Bio class."
I shudder and move away from the tent. Before unicorns came back, people used to do that and pretend it was this gentle, magical creature. No one realized the old stories were lies.

What are you reading today?

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