The Zombie Survival Guide
Pardon Me Sir, But Your Arm Seems To Have Fallen Off
It is difficult to anticipate how well The Zombie Survival Guide is written. The author is Max Brooks, writer for the Saturday Night Live show and son of the famous comedy icon, Mel Brooks. The writing is flawless: it is very convincingly done. It
ingly done. It is exactly what it purports to be: a complete guide for protecting oneself against an outbreak of the undead.
Brooks starts the book off by rationalizing what, exactly, a zombie is and how one comes about. He goes on to discuss every aspect of surviving the undead: weapons, transport, terrain, political responses, social responses, survival in a group or solo, defence strategies of all kinds in all circumstances, survival in a post-zombie-apocalypse world, global recovery time, decay rates of zombies in all terrains above ground, below it, and beneath oceans, lakes, or other bodies of water.
The breadth and scope of this small book is breathtaking. It is written with very accessible and lean prose, which goes along way to maintaining the reader's illusion that the zombie threat is, in fact, a real one. Historical cases of actual zombie outbreaks are covered from prehistory to the modern day, where the oddly plausible stories of government cover-ups provides much straight-laced humour by pandering to no doubt to a myriad of extant conspiracy theories. This is where the true humour of this work lies: in the deadpan, serious delivery that lampoons conspiracy nuts and the ridiculous Hollywood offerings in the zombie genre. Brooks effectively and incisively skewers Hollywood zombie movies and horror movies in general by deflating the "myths" about how best to survive against undead monsters. He gives the "true" account of the best tactics and weaponry, thereby showing up Hollywood's movie plots for the silly fluff that they often are.
So, a chainsaw might look cool and formidable in a zombie movie, but in real life, zombies, being mindlessly motivated to devour you, are not able to be intimidated; a chainsaw can stall or run out of fuel; it is heavy and unwieldy; it requires very close contact with the undead and increases the danger of being infected; it makes a huge noise that merely attracts every zombie in the vicinity; and finally, a chainsaw is liable, in close combat with a ravening horde of the undead, to decapitate you as much as the zombie behind you, striving to sink its teeth into your flesh.
A bus might seem a great way of fleeing a zombie infested suburb, but it is lousy at navigating streets strewn with the debris and abandoned cars that inevitably accompany a zombie outbreak. Refueling a bus is also no easy matter and forget about changing a tyre. Even if one does make it out into the country, a bus still cannot travel off-road to avoid an obstacle: it can easily get stuck and essentially turn into a big can full of zombie snacks!
If you would like to find out which weapons are better under which circumstances against a moaning horde of the living dead, then this book is the gold standard. It is written with marginal amounts of explicit humour, but its satirical and pseudo-documentary style is hilarious in a very intelligent way. I have no doubt that some of our more unhinged citizens would actually believe this book. Brooks's historical accounts of actual zombie outbreaks around the world are disturbingly realistic and plausible. They form the last quarter of the book and are not at all repetitive except with the most superficial reading. Each "account" cleverly illustrates a different aspect of zombie attack or defence in action. Brooks ingeniously weaves his zombie-spin into actual historical occurences, giving the accounts that much more plausibility. Even the mummification practices of ancient Egypt are given a plausible "zombie" interpretation!
Reading this book one is inevitably struck with the realization that it contains some very relevant information about survival, weaponry, emergency transport, and hostile terrains in general. It seems to take itself almost entirely seriously, and in doing so, convinces us, while reading at least, of the real and immanent danger of a potential zombie outbreak, coming soon to a neighbourhood near you! I look forward to the successor, World War Z, which seems it may be even darker and more realistic. Brooks is clearly capable of excellent writing, and despite the subject matter of this satirical dissection of Hollywood B-movies and conspiracy theory madness, this book is written with a skill and in prose far above your average pot-boiler thriller or John Grisham-clone bestseller.