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Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies Kindle Edition
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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I may have come to this book with expectations different from the author's intentions. I was expecting a work in the vein of most scholarly cultural studies books, those I studied as a student and used in my own classrooms. In other words, one where the texts under examination are studied closely and deeply to evidence what the writer is claiming they are saying about society or culture. Some of the best examples have been in the area of film and feminism. These require some theoretical foundation for much of the readings which follow.
In contrast, this book mentions zombie movies and television shows more as a jumping off point to discuss the science itself behind what struck the writer as curious. In other words, as if there were assignments in a basic science course that required the students to assess whether the science as used was correct and what science/technology is in place that might address such issues. This is not a work in the cultural studies realm but more in the pop science realm, which was not what I was expecting. Perhaps the promotional pieces should make that aspect clearer.
Having said all that, the writing was easy enough to follow and for someone more interested in the basic science of, say, water treatment might find the book more to their liking.
The book alternates between a being history of zombiism and a journal of self-discovery. Robinson wisely starts her history outside of the Caribbean, noting the European and Asian types of living dead. Creatures such as the revenant, nachzehrer, draugr, vetala, and jiangshi are not zombies per se, but manifest traits that would be incorporated into an archetypic zombie. Although the book tends to focus on films a little too heavily in spots, it is appropriate in discussing the social aspects of zombies as a metaphor for modern fear of science playing god one too many times. This, of course, includes Frankenstein and Re-Animator. She then segues in to some of the ways science could trigger the zombie apocalypse, such as her personal favorite, wastewater processing plants. After all, as Robinson notes, zombies are basically walking pathogens with the sole purpose to infect and destroy the world. Conversely, she also notes science may be the only thing that can save us from the onslaught of the walking dead.
Printed source material is really Robinson’s weakest point. Fiction is lightly covered at best, and short form is completely neglected. For all the discussion on the film Re-Animator (1985), she never mentions the source: the short story Herbert West—Re-Animator by H.P. Lovecraft. Nor does she mention the voodoo tales of Henry S. Whitehead. These are egregious oversights, but easily remedied in an expanded second edition.
This weakness aside, Robinson covers an extraordinarily broad array of topics. It’s a fun book, assuming panspermia, sewerage, and epidemics are your idea of a good time. Of course, if you’re reading a review of a book on zombies, that’s already a given.
Proof of her obsession can be found in the time and effort that obviously went into research for, and writing of her book, “Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies.” My reading of the book, however, left my own obsession unsated … which is not necessarily the fault of the book … obsessions, after all, can be very, VERY personal matters.
Robinson traces the start of her obsession with viewing George Romero’s 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead,” filmed just a few hours’ drive west of the movie theater in Pennsylvania where my own obsession was launched by watching the same film. Yet, in spite of the importance she places upon such films – she begins the first chapter of her book with the line, “Zombie films serve as a great lens to examine concerns society has about modern science.” – most of the ensuing examination relies upon a surprisingly limited repertoire of films, and a television series.
And that’s a shame, because much of what she cites is used to address another obsession of hers … “our fears of science and what could happen if science gets out of hand.” And while that is a good discussion in and of itself, little or no attention is paid to films that address the fun of zombies … yes, the FUN.
True, Robinson does refer briefly to films such as “Zombieland” and “Warm Bodies” that manage to find the humor of life in a zombie apocalypse … but those references are selective and address our fear of science, and authority, and so on. I can’t help but wonder why a host of funny/campy/silly films – from “Juan of the Dead” to Fido,” from “Redneck Zombies” to “Poultrygeist,” from “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies to (my all-time favorite) “Shaun of the Dead” – were left out of the mix.
What if zombie films not only stoke the fires of our fear of science, and our resentment of authority … what if they also tickle our funny bone? I really, really, REALLY wish Robinson could have spent more time on the fun of zombies, and less time on long, detailed and (for me) numbing descriptions of the science and technology of zombie/virus transmission.
Perhaps Robinson will again tackle zombies in a book, and MAYBE have a little FUN … I will keep an eye out for it, and I most certainly WILL read it.
ADDED NOTE: Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies was added to my virtual bookshelf as a free Early Reviewers Copy from librarything.com
Most recent customer reviews
Ms Robinson makes great points about how our fears of certain things are revealed in zombie movies, comics, TV and...Read more
Yes had some good information and insight on zombies.Read more
Undead Obsessed is an interesting, in-depth look into zombies in popular culture.Read more