by Dan Simmons
“Mr. Geiss grunted, pulled the new boy to his feet with the wire noose, opened the door with one hand, and shoved him in ahead of her with the pole. There would be just enough time for cleanup before the first bell rang.”
The zombie sub-genre has been run into the ground as badly as the vampire story. Nevertheless, Dan Simmons’ This Year’s Class Picture is one of the best stories you can read, even though it’s got zombies.
Ms. Geiss, possibly the last living teacher on the planet, is clinging to her past life as a tough as nails and dedicated grade school teacher. Though her students are zombies, she keeps bringing them into the classroom to learn despite their mindless actions and constant attempts to devour her. During the times the students are in her class they are under her protection and she’ll do whatever she can to keep them focused and incentivized to learn, including actions she would have found revolting when the world was alive.
The heart of this story is a teacher’s determination to break through to her students, to show them they matter, to demonstrate they can be better than they are if they apply themselves. This isn’t about zombie students, it’s about the best teachers struggling all over the world today and it’s a work of art–highest recommendations.
“There would be only the dead eyes, the slack faces, the open mouths, the aimless, mindless stirrings, and the soft stench of rank flesh. It was not too dissimilar from her years of teaching live children.”