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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Brainchild: A Collection of Artifacts, edited by Scott Lambridis

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"The Red Room" by Scott Lambridis
"Running" by David Wellington
"Black Days: Sandy" by Rebecca Brock
"The Oldest Profession" by Scott Lambridis
"Black Days: Paul" by Rebecca Brock
"SPQR" by David Senecal
"On the Western Front" by David Senecal and Scott Lambridis
"Finnegan's Scoop" by Scott Lambridis
"Book of Matches" by Charles Hogle

From Omnibucket comes Brainchild: A Collection of Artifacts, an anthology of zombie-themed stories, poems, and images, with an essay on the films of the sub-genre thrown into the mix.  The blurb on the back cover states, "This collection of artifacts [is] the brainchild of the remaining survivors of the second wave."  It's not entirely clear which wave they're referencing.  The overall project could benefit with a line-level edit, but the promise of visual and visceral flesh consumption at the hands of the walking dead is fulfilled.

The collection opens with flash, though without a table of contents I wasn't certain if it was poetry.  Either way, the untitled offering by David Senecal sets the tone of the book.  All hell has broken loose, the undead are on the hunt.  After this anecdotal introduction, the anthology staggers ahead.

"The Red Room" by Scott Lambridis follows Angie, a mother chased by corpses on her quest to fulfill one task before she succumbs to the scourge: to save her twelve-year-old daughter, Jerry, from the nightmare.  This piece suffers from flashitis, the affliction of calling an event snapshot a story.  With only one idea, it comes up short, adding little substance to the stew.

David Wellington's "Running" is one of the meatier tales of the bunch.  In the panic of the zombies' first strike, the narrator collects a Nissan full of strangers and attempts to drive them to safety.  Along the way, he meets up with the army and a construction vehicle fortified with barbed wire.  Ingenuity will be the salvation of humanity.  Like most slasher movies, the car's occupants drop, one by one. The climax concludes Running's contract: ending when they can run no more.  With enough words to generate a plot, Wellington manages to please the horror reader, with a touch of powerlessness and a dash of primal fear all contributing to a hot soup of yummy goodness.

Rebecca Brock's first of two "Black Days" pieces, "Sandy" is a great suspense tale.  Sandy, a dicta-typist, misses the start of the invasion, sheltered from the events under her soundproof headphones.  When the eerie quiet of the office warns her of the wrongness in the world, she meets with her coworkers in the break room and absorbs the news reports.  After vomiting on her Donna Karan blouse and Blahnik shoes, she heads for the ladies' room to clean up and think.  The undead arrive on her floor, trapping her inside.  Her frantic search for an escape route provides the sprint to the finish of this personal-level tale.  With great lines like, "I don't think terrorists have a weapon that makes people eat each other," Brock's "Black Days: Sandy" does what horror should, keeps the pages turning and the fear close at hand.

"The Oldest Profession" is a disjointed narrative by Scott Lambridis.  The protagonist falls in love with a prostitute, assuring his position as a loser.  When the corpses come, she shows more resolve than him, yet he survives, though the details are lost in the murkiness of the prose.  Without a clear plot, Lambridis simply describes the thoughts of a man on the brink of ruin.

Rebecca Brock's "Black Days: Paul" provides the male perspective on a world-gone-wrong.  Paul is on the run, moving from house to house in search of food, shelter, and a brief rest from his pursuers.  He finds a location with a fireplace and a pantry stocked with Spam and pickles.  Spending the night, he luxuriates in a night's sleep, only to be plagued by nightmares of his former wife.  Though tempted to remain for another day, he gathers his new stash and hesitates.  "Scratching, soft but insistent," drifts up from the basement.  The undead should have ruptured the door to consume him while he slept.  The realization of the truth ends this tale with a twist of gut-wrenching sadness.

David Senecal's "SPQR" is another flash piece with a partial plot arch.  The narrator's arm aches and the source is revealed slowly through the story.  The accompanying illustration shows a zombie with one arm missing, which leads to unfounded assumptions.  At the end, the narrator divvies out revenge.

Senecal and Lambridis team up to create "On the Western Front," a humorous romp with high-tech zombie tracking devices and shoot-em-up action.  To sum up the premise with a quote, "To our credit, designing the death of human beings is something for which we were consummately prepared."   This tale suffers from a tendency to infodump and overtell, but it wittingly pokes sticks at society's subdivision design flaws.

"Finnegan's Scoop, An Interview with Sgt. Phillip McDougall" is a quirky interview-style snippet of fiction.  Scott Lambridis weaves a story within a story, where a sergeant in the new army recounts his training at the hands of Mr. Finnegan, a man who invented a scoop that removes the brain stem easily from "the soft tissue in their necks."  The victorious soldiers then wear the stems around their neck as macabre trophies.  In the end, a wife is tossed into the story without warning or merit.  Though the premise was fresh, the execution didn't follow through.

The final story, "Book of Matches" by Charles Hogle hits a homer.  A woman tends to her ailing father under hideous conditions.  In her world, the US government has developed a "Reanimation Device" that turns the dead into free labor.  Zombies do everything from picking fruit to transporting toxic waste.  Because California has passed a bill making the burning of bodies illegal, the narrator keeps four cans of gasoline in the shed where they're hiding out and a book of matches in her bra, ready for the moment when her father passes away.  Love and despair oozes from the prose, making this story the highlight of the collection.

Overall, Brainchild provides plenty of zombie action, combining fiction with graphic illustrations to create a neat little book of the living dead.

Publisher: Omnibucket (Jan. 2006)
Price: $15.00
Paperback: 64 pages
ISBN: 0977457907