Friday, September 28, 2012

The Zombie Survival Guide, a review

The next time a Class 2 zombie outbreak occurs in my neighborhood, I’ll be well-prepared to deal with the shambling corpses of hungry undead now that I’ve read Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.

The Zombie Survival Guide dispels exaggerated myths and legends of the undead and instead presents the reader with unvarnished “truths” about zombies. You’ll find information on zombies’ physical strength, sight, hearing, and rate of decay, and the pros and cons of various weaponry for battling the undead (everything from medieval maces and claymores, to M-16s and flamethrowers). It describes various scenarios for identifying early signs of localized (Class 1) outbreaks, to full-blown widespread undead infestation (Class 3). You’ll find best practices for battling zombies in urban settings, in harsh desert and swamp environments, even under the sea. The Zombie Survival Guide tells you how to defend your home by stocking up with key food and supplies, moving to your second floor and destroying all staircases (recommended for Class 2), or how to survive on the run as you move to the most remote and therefore safest parts of the planet in a world-wide zombie apocalypse in which mankind is overrun (Class 4). The best vehicle should an outbreak occur? You might not guess it, but it’s a bicycle. On a bike you can easily outrun the slow, slouching pace of zombies, it will never run out of gas, you can carry a bicycle over rough terrain, and you can maneuver a bike through the inevitable traffic jams that accompany a full-on panic. Motorcycles are very good too, though their noise attracts the undead. Boats are also a secure means of travel, says Brooks, but watch your anchor line—zombies walking on the ocean floor can use it to climb up to your boat. “Hundreds” of hapless victims have died this way, Brooks tells us.

The Zombie Survival Guide serves as a perfect gateway to Brooks’ highly recommended World War Z. If for nothing else, and you find Brooks’ post-apocalyptic strategems and survival tactics tedious, I’d recommend this book simply for the highly entertaining “Recorded Outbreaks” section. Here Brooks describes various zombie outbreaks throughout history, from ancient tales recorded in chilling primitive artwork, all the way up through living eyewitness accounts from the early 21st century. These are written in the economical journalism style that Brooks’ employs so effectively in World War Z, lending these “outbreaks” a documentary-style feel, which makes them seem more realistic and terrifying. According to Brooks there have been many zombie outbreaks throughout history—perhaps even in my neighborhood, hence my need to be ready—but  these have been largely laughed off by skeptical media, ascribed to outbreaks of disease, localized madness, or industrial pollution, or covered up by governments or the CDC, fearful that public knowledge would result in full-scale panic.

For all its earnestness you have to take The Zombie Survival Guide with a heavy dose of salt. While it’s written in a deadpan style and never descends into farce, and purports to be a “real” guide for complete protection against the walking dead, when you read passages like “If you want to know the true danger of an airborne (parachute) attack against zombies, try dropping a square centimeter of meat on a swarming anthill. Chances are, that meat will never touch the ground. In short, air support is just that—support. People who believe it to be a war-winner have no business planning, orchestrating, or participating in any conflict with the living dead,” you can’t help but laugh (I did laugh out loud, several times). While not as well-written or as compelling as World War Z, for zombie aficionados The Zombie Survival Guide is nevertheless a must-read.

Marc Cashman narrates with a dry, clipped voice that perfectly suits the how-to nature of The Zombie Survival Guide. There’s a touch of William Shatner in his delivery, with dramatic pauses in odd places, but that only adds to the fun.

This review also appears on


Falze said...

Definitely worth a few laughs, I enjoyed it. And, hey, with all these new drugs around making people act like zombies, who's to say...

Still haven't had a chance to pull WWZ off the shelf, though, but winter is coming and eventually I have to finish the Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth series I'm in the midst of...right? Eventually? It does end, right?

Haven't gotten to the 'how to survive a robot uprising' book, either, so I hope the zombies come before the robots, at least I'm ready for them. At least blogger seems ready for them, I see below this box that I have to "prove I'm not a robot" to comment. Good policy. Also: go back in time to kill them before they become sentient. I've heard that works.

Fortunately there didn't seem to be any good survival tips in The Walking Dead, since they were all slowly being eaten by zombies when they weren't pounding on each other, because I couldn't keep watching that and gave up after a couple of episodes of Season 2. Oh well.

Pericles said...

I seem to be one of the few people who didn't care for WWZ. Did enjoy the two zombie novels by J.L. Bourne, though.

Brian Murphy said...

with all these new drugs around making people act like zombies, who's to say...

Brooks would have had a field day with the guy who ate that other dude's face off ... he could have penned a whole chapter on the great "bath salts cover up."

Yeah, everyone in The Walking Dead (except Darryl) should be slapped upside the head with a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide. 95% of their problems would be solved.

Did enjoy the two zombie novels by J.L. Bourne, though.

Hmm... I haven't heard of these before. Will have to check them out.