‘Where the Dead Go to Die’: a new favorite piece of zombie media

February 26, 2024

TITLE: Where the Dead Go to Die
AUTHOR: Aaron Dries & Mark Allan Gunnells
GENRE: Horror
PAGES: 197pg
PUBLISHER: Crystal Lake Publishing

There are monsters in this world. And they used to be us. Now it’s time to euthanize to survive in a hospice where Emily, a woman haunted by her past, only wants to do her job and be the best mother possible.

Post-infection Chicago. Christmas.

Inside The Hospice, Emily and her fellow nurses do their rounds. Here, men and women live out their final days in comfort, segregated from society, and are then humanely terminated before fate turns them into marrow-craving monsters known as ‘Smilers.’ Outside these imposing walls, rabid protesters swarm with signs, caught up in the heat of their hatred.

Emily, a woman haunted by her past, only wants to do her job and be the best mother possible. But in a world where mortality means nothing, where guns are drawn in fear and nobody seems safe anymore – at what cost will this pursuit come? And through it all, the soon to be dead remain silent, ever smiling. Such is their curse.

This emotional, political novel comes from two of horror’s freshest voices, and puts a new spin on an eternal topic: the undead. In the spirit of George A Romero meets Jack Ketchum, Where the Dead Go to Die it is an unforgettable epilogue to the zombie genre, one that will leave you shaken and questioning right from wrong…even when it’s the only right left.

It won’t be long before that snow-speckled ground will be salted by blood.

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I’ll try my best to do this book justice with a review, but it isn’t every day that you find a new favorite zombie book of all time.

Every day has its destiny. The cracking icicle that’s almost ready to fall. A branch weighed by too much snow, soon to break. Clouds that try and try to hold in their water, only to fail, and in doing so fulfill their meaning in the world. An architecture of inevitability, that this was fated to be. The destiny of this day: Bloodshed. It would begin with a single drop.

Where the Dead Go to Die is a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse that I’ve never seen before. In a future where the zombie infection takes months, sometimes even years to change a person into the inevitable, government agencies set up hospice centers to allow the would-be walking dead a safe place to be taken care of while they live out their final days in some semblance of dignity and calm.

The book follows a young mother named Emily who’s starting her new job as a nurse at one of these hospice centers, and throughout it, we get the chance to grow attached not only to her and her daughter Lucette, but also a wide panel of side characters who are human, flawed, and impossible not to empathize with. Dries and Gunnells are masters at developing these characters until they feel like they could walk right off the pages, which means it hurts that much more whenever any terrible fate befalls one of them.

Where the Dead Go to Die is perhaps the first piece of zombie media of any form to break my heart so thoroughly; if you need proof, I’m fighting tears just typing this review, thinking about some of the characters and how much better they deserved. I adore horror stories that can cut to the heart of me and this one didn’t let me down. I feel like I’m going to mourn this story for a long time, and for me, that’s a mark of a genuinely memorable read.

I can’t wait to read more by both of these authors and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It takes place around the holidays, but you could easily read it at any time of year. Whether you typically enjoy zombie tales or not, I highly suggest picking this up if you like emotional horror stories with a lot of heart. 5 stars, easy. Thanks for the heartache, Dries and Gunnells. 💔

content warnings →
WARNINGS (click to expand):

violence, body horror, gore, murder, death, terminal illness, cannibalism, zombie infection, grief, loss of a spouse, child death, mentions of child rape, mentions of homophobia, abusive/neglectful parents, medical content, medical trauma, execution, loneliness, protests at a medical facility, gun violence

representation →

one Black side character, one queer side character



More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.


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