Currently I'm a librarian and before that I was an archaeologist, a journalist, and definitely a bit of a world traveler. I tend to mostly read science fiction and fantasy, though I do love a good mystery and I'm a bit of a book dabbler overall. I've been doing Goodreads for awhile, but a friend thought I might enjoy this as well. Let's see, yeah?
I read two stories about zombies one right after the other, so it seemed like it would make sense to talk about them together. Both stories take place in larger fictional universes -- "What Once We Feared" takes place (like many of her short stories) before The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy (an excellent trilogy, by the way) and "San Diego 2014: the Last Stand of the California Browncoats" takes place in Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy. I've not read Grant's novels yet, but I downloaded the first one to my Kindle as soon as I finished this story!
"San Diego 2014" takes places at San Diego Comic Con at the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse. At this point many people don't believe in zombies yet and many people haven't even really heard of them in "real life" (though they may have noticed news reports about some disease outbreak). As such, you can't fault people for congregating and making merry with awesomely geeky merchandise (some of which turn out to be terribly useful during a zombie attack) and cosplay. Of course, their merriment is interrupted by the hungry dead and our cast of quickly drawn -- yet compelling -- characters' soon realize that their odds of survival are slim.
I couldn't put down the story at all because of the tension of finding out who (if anyone!) was going to survive. I liked pretty all the main cast members. They're all realistically flawed and more lovable for that and more admirable as they rise to the occasion. I really would have loved it if this were a full length novel! As a side note, I'd also like to see the author write a novel for the cheesy tv show created for the story -- Space Crime Continuum -- is that not an awesomely awful title? You just know that show would be full of hilarious zingers and quirky characters and just a whole lot of fun.
I recommend this story whole heartedly -- we're talking five stars here. It's funny -- I was kind of hesitant to read it because the premise (zombies at Con) was very similar to a book I read and loved called Night of the Living Trekkies. These books have hardly anything in common other than the central concept. Trekkies is much more comedy than horror. Also, you should read it.
Now, as for Carrie Ryan's What Once We Feared... Sadly, it is probably my least favorite of her zombie stories so far. I don't think she had enough time in this tale to really create the character arc that seemed present. I really didn't like the main character at all (and he didn't seem to much like himself either) but by the end the narrative seemed to be saying that he'd become much more... Though I didn't see how that happened besides other people becoming much less...
Both of these stories were low on the hope end of the scale, but San Diego 2014 didn't suffer from that, I think, and it seems as if the nature of the trilogies that come later may have affected how these stories could play out. I mean, obviously there can be victories or failures in the short term, but each of these stories seemed aware of the world's destiny. Okay, that's probably not quite fair since San Diego 2014 starts with frame where a reporter is interviewing a survivor so of course that story has to have some measure of victory in it. (which isn't to say this is a happy tale by any means)