In 2003's The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks has, essentially, written a book that is defined by its title. Those expecting a tongue-in-cheek comedy book or some ridiculous spoof will, instead, find what is essentially a fictional guidebook on the living dead and how to survive their hunger for human flesh, all dished out with a deadpan delivery in a manner similar to other survival guides. Although a brief mention is given to the fact-based Voodoo zombie, this title concentrates primarily on zombies of the fictional flesh-eating variety. Often impressively well thought out and researched, the book goes through everything from the science behind the disease that creates zombies to detailed information on how to escape from and defend against zombies to tips for living in a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled world.
The meat of the book concentrates on fighting the undead, defending one's self during an outbreak, escaping an outbreak, and methods for hunting zombies and ending an outbreak. Each chapter contains highly detailed sections of relevant information explaining the pros and cons of specific weapons, terrain types, vehicles, and methods of dealing with the undead. These are all well thought out and show a fairly comprehensive knowledge of general survival methods, weapons, and terrain not typically found in something that falls under the "humor" category. The final, and perhaps most entertaining, chapter is a history of worldwide zombie outbreaks dating back to 60,000 BC. In these tales, the author uses an impressive knowledge of geography and various cultures around the world to spin detailed accounts of zombie uprisings that are actually well thought out, detailed, and believable. He also makes a few brilliant deductions based on his fabricated stories. For instance, he hypothesizes that the reason ancient Egyptians removed the brains of the undead is to prevent the corpses' reanimation as zombies. It's really far more ingenious than you'd expect from someone who's making all of this stuff up. Essentially, the book amounts to a scientific analysis of the anatomy and history of the undead as well as a survival guide for living through and dealing with zombie outbreaks, all delivered with an unwavering straight face.
All in all, it's certainly an entertaining read for horror fans that aren't expecting an obvious comedy title. Younger readers might also have fun with the book, especially with the section in the back where you can keep your own journal of suspected zombie activities (as long as they aren't the kind of kids that take things literally enough to stockpile illegal weapons in preparation for a zombie attack or off the neighbor they suspect of being a member of the undead). It may even become an irreplaceable inspiration or influence for horror writers or filmmakers in need of something to guide their ideas for a zombie story. Almost undeniably the most comprehensive fictional zombie reference source out there, it's certainly a worthy addition to the collection of any zombie-loving horror fan.
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