Let's face it: at one time or another we've all faced a zombie scare we aren't prepared for. And yes, the local constabulary usually cleans things up with a minimum of fuss, but what happens when things go wrong and the cavalry doesn't arrive? That, my friends, is the day that Max Brooks' "The Zombie Survival Guide" saves your life. With several millennia worth of field experience distilled into a manageable 254 pages, everything you need to know to survive the coming war with the undead can be found in these pages. Your life and the lives of those you love are at stake, act now and be prepared!
OK, so that paragraph was obviously tongue in cheek, but hopefully in conveys some sense of what Brooks' remarkable "The Zombie Survival Guide" is like. While obviously a parody of both the horror genre and civil defense/survivalist manuals, it maintains an "all-business" demeanor, never once cracking the façade to reveal the underlying humoristic intent. The result is a book that is, when taken as a whole, a funny, incredibly thorough work of satire. However, at the same time, page-by-page, it is a rather accomplished addition to zombie horror.
Starting with zombie physiology and then moving on to weapons, tactics, long-term strategy and history Brooks has produced a manual which has a thoroughness that belies the absurdity of its subject. Point by point he discusses the pros and cons of rifles, machetes and flamethrowers, then considers the optimal defensive positions for various types of outbreaks. After an extensive discussion of survival in a zombie doomsday scenario, he lays out zombie outbreaks through history, and what their implications are. Throughout, entries are extensively cross-referenced and alternative courses of action are always weighed for potential risks and benefits.
The remarkable thing about all this is that Brooks has managed to infuse a tension, and urgency into his manual that makes for great reading. Part post-apocalyptic fiction, part "Night of the Living Dead" and part "Saturday Night Live" sketch, this is a book that should hold appeal across a broad range of genres. Thorough without being dry, creepy without being clichéd, and funny without relying on cheap laughs, "The Zombie Survival Guide" is undoubtedly one of the most original books I have ever read, and one that I enjoyed reading immensely. If you appreciate any or all of these genres, or if you just enjoy a well executed, original idea, this is definitely a book you'll want to check out.
And remember...Tomorrow may be too late, read this book today!
on December 19, 2006
Max Brooks has put together a rather unique book that it's simply impossible to classify. Part field guide, part arcane zombie history book, and part disaster-training manual, it also manages to keep things serious enough to make you wonder if what it's talking about is real. I began to wonder if Brooks actually believed what he was writing, and that's a big plus point in the book's favor.
The book is separated into several portions, ranging from zombie physiology, what zombies can do and can't do, an overview of Solanum, the microorganism that gives life...or "unlife" to the zombie, as well as a pretty fascinating look at what weapons are best matched against your undead opponents and what kind of structures to barricade yourself in should an outbreak occur. At the end of the book is a pretty extensive collection of "historical" zombie outbreaks throughout human history. The whole thing is written so seriously that you'll laugh out loud when you get to the end of the book and see several Zombie Action Checklists for the owner's use to keep track of outbreaks.
Here's what I've learned should an outbreak occur:
-Grab an M1 Garand and lots of ammo
-Machetes and trench spikes are superior to machine guns
-Get a bicycle...zombies can't hear you and you can always carry your bike over rough terrain, and all without reliance on gasoline
-Chainsaws are fun, but will give you a false sense of power (sorry Bruce Campbell!)
-Flame throwers are the ultimate zombie-killing weapon. But carrying 70 lbs. of equipment on foot will make you slow enough for zombies to catch you.
-Off-shore oil drilling rigs are the ultimate hideout!
-If it all blows out of control make for the nearest tropical island, or the Artic circle if you can handle the cold
-Stay away from hospitals in the case of an outbreak
The book's serious tone about things so ridiculous will make you laugh out loud several times during the reading of it. This was one of the most unique and entertaining reads I've had in a very long time, and I thoroughly recommend it!
on November 3, 2003
Watch out Stephen King.
Another reviewer was right when he/she said this book isn't laugh out loud funny. It's not. But it is very amusing, considering it's not tongue in cheek at all. It's tone is straightforward and very serious. Survivalists, bodyguards, law enforcement and military personnel might get a kick out of how some of their standard weapons and statics are used against zombies because some of the advice rings very true for real defense encounters. And I think horror fans, especially fans of George Romero or the Resident Evil videogames will really like it. It's classic textbook zombie stuff, right down to zombie physiology. ;)
But by far, the best and scariest part of the book is the Recorded Attacks section near latter part of the book. These short stories are hella creepy and make for some great camp fire yarns. They are so very well done, especially the one about the gangs in L.A., for a second, you'll be wondering if it's really a parody.
I was expecting something crappy and cheap, but I was surprised. It's a neat little read.
on January 18, 2004
I picked up this book expected to chuckle. I thoght it would be along the lines of the Worse Case books. It starts out with that droll, almost English tounge in cheek humor and rapidly gets serious. It's obvious Max Brooks did some research. Everything you ever wanted to know about zombie lore plus a dollop of human history and nature is thrown in.
The first half of the book talks about dealing with a class 1 through 4 zombie outbreak and offers advice such as don't go down in the basement, don't go to the hospital--there's dead and dying folks there to begin with, keep moving, don't let the zombie get close enough to touch you, and keep quiet until you reach safety.
The second half describes recorded attacks from ancient time until today and it's actually scary. If Max Brooks ever decides to write straight horror fiction I'll buy it. The story about the slave ship full of zombies gave me genuine chills.
Another very amusing and clever touch is the way Brooks never breaks away from the tone of the book. The dedication, introduction, about the author page and acknowlegement pages all
stick to the book's theme. All in all, I'm delighted with this book. It's funny and scary and that is very difficult to pull off. Head to your secure location, turn the lights down, turn the radio off and read this little thriller. Max Brooks, take a bow!
on September 25, 2003
I picked this book up as in impulse purchase. I never do that, even with stupid things like batteries, but I felt drawn to the book. Its really, really funny by dint of how deadpan serious it takes the subject of zombies. It's internally consistent, which helps a whole lot. Here's a sample line (from Attacking-Strategies-Underwater Battles-Scanning the Surface): "Hooking on scuba gear and blindly diving into zombie-infested water is a wonderful way to mix the two childhood fears of being eaten and drowning." Fun, strangely engaging, and it'll look good on your shelf.
on October 8, 2003
Finally, a decent tome to guide the common man through any zombie armageddon. It is near-perfect, and it offers overall sound advice. Brooks is entirely wrong, however, when it comes to the M-16 (modern variants, incl. the M4) v. AK-47 question. The reliability issues that Brooks cites haven't applied to the M16 in over 25 years. If kept clean and happy, the M16A4 and the M4, are many times more accurate and reliable than the AK-47. In fact, some would say that it is more suited to combatting the living dead than the living, as long-range accuracy is key. Moreover, the M16A4/M4 are common to American military and law enforcement, and no domestic zombie survivalist should pass one up. The author also ignores the proven zombie-killing action of the modern tomahawk: smaller than an ax, bigger than a hatchet, and easier to use than either. One last point, although Brooks is correct in saying that large vehicles are potential death traps, nobody should overlook the break-out power of a good solid trash truck. It won't get you far, but it will get out of the neighborhood in a hurry.
on August 3, 2004
I've bought three copies of this book, one for myself and two as gifts for friends. They both loved it, and so did I. So here I am to recommend it.
The Zombie Survival Guide is a notoriously difficult book to classify. It would be laughed at if it were shelved with other "survival" books, yet it doesn't seem to fit in with humour because it's not technically funny. It's a parody. Therein lies the humour. It probably won't have you in stitches (no pun intended), since the book is written "with a straight face" on something that (if it were real) would be an extremely gory and disturbing subject. If you can appreciate this book as a parody...well, you won't be laughing out loud, but you'll be highly amused and very entertained.
Basically, this book is a very entertaining parody of survival books that happens to use one of the old horror stand-bys: zombie hoards. Let's be honest: would most of us know the first thing about how to survive if we woke up one day to see the walking dead at our doorstep moaning for our sweet, sweet brains? Sadly, the answer is a resounding NO. This book details the basics of what every person who values their lives -- and their brains -- should know about surviving a zombie attack: which weapons work and which ones don't, what supplies should be a priority, which buildings make good shelters, historical records of past zombie attacks, terrain types, as well as tactics for being barricaded in your home, on the run, partaking in zombie hunting, or -- should the unthinkable happen -- hiding out as the undead hoards sweep across the Earth. The Zombie Survival Guide won't guarentee your survival, but it will certainly give you an advantage over the poor shmuck who doesn't even know to shoot for the head.
The only real con about this book comes up if you buy it expecting a laugh-out-loud humour book. If so, look elsewhere. This is a parody that never strays from its serious demeanor. Not to scare anyone off; it's quite readable, and has enough of a coloquial feel to appeal to the average civilian. It's an amusing parody and an enjoyable read, but the book doesn't wink-wink-nudge-nudge the reader or go for one-liners and laughs.
The pros are simple: it's a higly enjoyable parody of survival books, with an extremely cool topic. If you're a zombie movie buff, this book will let you smirk at your superior knowledge of zombie-fighting tactics when the idiots in the movies wouldn't know a zombie if it bit them. (Alright, THAT pun was intended.) If you're looking for a good reference book about survival tactics and the like, this is a readable variation that's probably more entertaining than most. (The lists of gear to carry seem pretty logical in ANY dire situation.) Yet even if you read the book and fully accept it as a parody, it still has a way of getting to you. You'll find yourself idly wondering if you have enough food in your house to last through a seige, or whether you should invest in a machete and a shotgun. Just in case.
on July 2, 2006
This excellent guide will prepare you as well as any book can. The realities of an outbreak of the Solanum-infected is something that will test your physical and psychological limits. However--and with apologies to Mr. Brooks for using this space to editorialize--the only way we can fully prepare, is for the government to finally make the recorded incidents available for public scrutiny and analysis.
I know from bitter experience how ill-prepared local, state, and federal authorities are to deal with these outbreaks. It is only a matter of time before containment and cover-up are shown-up for the pathetic band-aid type responses they are; and we have a full-scale infestation that will have to be dealt with by the clueless.
The incident I experienced wasn't covered in the book, which is very surprising, considering how recent it was, the number of people involved, and the fact that it resulted in the death--among many others--of a former Cosby kid. At least a few of Mr. Brook's sources would surely have know about the events in and around Black Creek, Wisconsin in October of 1998.
My involvement began when I was pulled off the site of my security supervisor position at a nearby Department of Energy facility to support a county SWAT team dealing with a "civil disturbance". This type of order was unheard of, yet me and a few others with sniper training had to respond. This isn't the place for a long narrative, yet I need to give some sort of public account. Screw my security oath; I also took an oath to protect the United States from enemies foreign and domestic, and the only way to do that, I'm convinced, is to reveal the truth.
Long story as short as possible: a charter flight out of Canada went down in the dense woods surrounding the unincorporated town of Black Creek, and we were given vague instructions to set up a perimeter around that locus and stop, by whatever means necessary, anyone attempting to leave the area. We all thought it was a training exercise and were joking around when the first of "them" lurched out of the woods. You can guess what happened. Our perimeter soon became an inner perimeter as we ourselves were hemmed in, engaged in the fight of our lives. 18 horrifying and surreal hours later, huddled in an abandoned grist mill, the remains of our group were rescued by troops from Fort McCoy. The incident was covered up. Civilians as well as law enforcement and military personnel were threatened into silence, and I can only assume the press was as well. I am aware of some attempts at lawsuits still going on, but I think those are doomed to fail.
Had we had even a fraction of the knowledge contained in this guide--or even knew the nature of the enemy we battled--we would have fared so much better, and many good people would still be alive.
The advice in the book is solid, although I have a few thoughts of my own based on my experiences: I don't agree that edged weapons are superior to bludgeons. Blades will stick, splatter infected blood all over, and pose a greater risk to any of your allies in close proximity. You don't want the distraction of crawling around a dimly-lit floor, looking for your buddy's ear, accidently hacked off while you flailed at a horde of creatures. (True story.) Also, If you have the time in advance, use low-grain rounds in your firearms if you're planning on using them indoors. In an enclosed space, the muzzle-flash and noise from rounds like those in a magnum will leave you disoriented and numb after just a short time, severely limiting your combat effectiveness. Finally, wear pathogen-resistant boots. You won't believe the amount of blood that pools at your feet while defending a static position from a major onslaught.
Mentally toughen up. I realize that advice is a bit non-specific. I really don't have a solid indicator of what will make someone react better than others in those terrifying situations. Combat veterans panicked, with fatal consequences, while an intrepid band of Cub Scouts--clearly camped out at the wrong place at the wrong time--performed admirably.
Your Uncle Sam IS making small steps toward training its first responders, albeit secretively and obtusely. For example, see the 2005 copy of the FEMA Small Unit Managers Manual, 109-A. They mention "Transient Anomalous Social Disturbances". A roundabout and halfway approach to some sort of level of preparedness. And a close examination of the Department of Homeland Security charter will reveal small clues to a weak effort at defense against the undead. But, bottom line, it is the informed citizenry that will make the difference when the Solanum hits the fan. Get this book and get busy.
on July 6, 2007
Arguably, The Zombie Survival Guide stands as one of the most unique examples of horror literature written to date. After reading this work, I was amazed with Max Brook's ability to dissect the zombie in such a dynamic and thought provoking manner. These descriptives are normally not associated with anything called "zombie" - but Brooks make them quite applicable in his guide.
The scientific, historical, societal impact and threat of the zombie is examined in logical detail throughout this guide. Some of my favorite parts of the book were those involving the weapons & tactics used in dealing with the undead threat. Most amazing in The Zombie Survival Guide is the underlying wit Brooks uses with no degradation of the fear inspied subject.
I am a long-time fan of the zombie horror-genre (25+ years), and have seen many works with potential miss the mark. With The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks hits the bullseye dead on (and in deference to Mr. Brooks, he is firing with his well oiled, primary firearm).
Other Zombie works that I would recommend:
Zombie Factory: 27 Tales of Bizzare Comix Madness from Beyond the Tomb - a collection of some the best zombie stories from the 1970's horror magazines.
Monster Island: A Zombie Novel - presenting one of the greatest zombie doomsday scenarios I have seen to date.
Day by Day Armageddon - another outstanding zombie novel - the cover says it all...One Man, and his struggle for survival in an undead world.
on March 4, 2007
The Zombie Survival Guide presents the reader with a multitude of scenarios, bits of advice, and words of caution pertaining to a zombie outbreak. Written more like an actual survival guide than comedy/horror prose, the book actually gave me the feeling I was much better prepared in case zombies ever start popping up.
Other reviews have made reference to the book not having any humor. Personally, I found humor in the sheer ridiculousness of a survival guide written for a completely (or perhaps not..) implausible occurence, written as seriously as a heart attack. Take a minute to step back and realize what you're reading, and you should at least get a wry smile from it.
The amount of detail included adds to the comprehensive "survival guide" feel. For example, Brooks advises against using loud or heavy weapons such as chainsaws, as they'll draw other zombies, and tire you out. He obviously put a great deal of time and thought into the subject, and the book's various sections certainly reflect it.
All in all, this guide is a must have for fans of the zombie subgenre. It's engaging, and despite being quite in-depth, refreshing. Personally, I enjoyed this so much I bought World War Z, just because Brooks wrote it.