VALLEY OF THE DEAD (2009 Cargo Cult Press / limited edition hc)
Despite talks (within the genre) of zombies being just about "as played out" as vampires, there seems to be a fresh take on them nearly every month . . . but few have been as interesting (or intelligent) as Kim Paffenroth's VALLEY OF THE DEAD, which takes its cue from visions seen in Dante's INFERNO and imagines what he went through during his 17-year exile from Italy (a timeline of his life is provided for us mere mortals!).
The author's prologue itself is worth the cover price (which is a bit steep, but collectors and zombie completists will want this at any cost) and dared me (and will dare any zombie fanatic) to keep reading long into the night.
Besides the uber-cool setup, Paffenroth's writing style here differs from his "Dying to Live" series, and the whole tone of the story seems (at times) like you're reading a lost account of a historical reality. The various characters he encounters (and befriends) along his journey seem quite real, and in their conversations (especially in Chapter 20) we learn nifty bits and pieces about Dante's past (hmmm---seems Dr. Kim set out not only to give his readers the willies, but 'learn 'em a bit, too).
While I truly enjoyed this, I'm not sure how many fans of the standard "shoot-'em-up/gut-munch" zombie tale will; but if you allow yourself to enter Paffenroth's speculative vision with no pre-conceptions, you might find it a hard place to want to leave.
Here's hoping this one eventually finds a wider release.