Death and Suffrage by Dale Bailey

Mark Swain – friend of Leeds Book Club and writer of short fiction here – is a huge fan of the horror genera, and will be providing us with some reviews!
Feel free to drop him a line on twitter – you’ll find him @DemonHeadClash

* * * * * HERE BE SPOILERS* * * * * 


This story is about how a race for the American presidency is deeply impacted by the dead returning to life to cast their vote in the election. It also focuses on the personal story of one of the campaign runners.
This story follows two very distinct arcs but obviously both intertwine with each other on a regular basis. The first aspect deals with how the undead walking among us affect the day to day lives of the living people but also how governments around the world would deal with a non-threatening zombie outbreak.
The other arc follows the main character as he tries to piece together his past but also gives us an insight into the presidential candidate’s campaign to the White House.
This story was originally completed just after the infamous Al Gore and George Bush presidential election; so at the time the presidential run in would have been a very hot topic. I wouldn’t say the tale has lost any of its power over the last decade; the issues the author writes about are still being faced today and that is very much the point of the story. Nothing changes in politics.
The zombies demand change in gun ownership laws which is clearly a very American problem, but the point being made by the author is that governments often pass laws based on the opinion of the very vocal minority even if the law is not popular with the majority. I am sure a large percentage of Americans would rather have tighter gun controls but despite almost yearly school shootings and hundreds of gun related deaths nothing changes. It appears only a zombie invasion is the way for a real change to happen.
The main character could also be described as a zombie given he has sold out his own personal ideals to toe the party line. It is only when a voice within him demands the destruction of all guns that he starts to question who he has become and the choices he has made. This is a staple of zombie fiction, as often the living are more dead than the zombies. That being said you do genuinely care about the protagonist and having characters such as his grandmother and aggressive fellow campaign runners around him really does give weight to the personality of the protagonist
The reveal near the end of the story can be pieced together by observant readers before the actual finale but the sequence is well written and delicately handled all the same. I would probably have preferred it if the protagonist dreams had not been entirely explained at the end of the story but that is just me.
This story proves the zombie is a versatile monster, these are not the flesh eating terrors which are portrayed in so many B movies but rather representing the unheard masses especially when it comes to elections where turn out is often between 50% and 60%.

The tale is well written with real, dense characters and the political message never gets in the way of the story being told. The author is fortunate that very few people would be on the opposite side of the gun control debate but it would still have been easy for the author to get bogged down in rhetoric but he neatly avoids this with thoughtful story telling.

Death and Suffrage is available for free online here and is part of ‘The Living Dead’ anthology as edited by John Joseph Adams.

Read more of Mark Swain’s writings here!

Tweet Mark @DemonheadClash


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