Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Review: The Zombie Survival Guide

I just finished reading The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks. It was published in 2003. I realize this book is a stretch for this history blog. However, I have a good rationale for reviewing it. The book makes a wild stab at alternate history! And it is very enjoyable to boot. Many history oriented people would like reading this work.

Here is a description of the book from Amazon:

"The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Fully illustrated and exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain."

"Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack: 1. Organize before they rise! 2. They feel no fear, why should you? 3. Use your head: cut off theirs. 4. Blades don’t need reloading. 5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair. 6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it. 7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike. 8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert! 9. No place is safe, only safer. 10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on."

"Don’t be carefree and foolish with your most precious asset—life. This book is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now without your even knowing it. The Zombie Survival Guide offers complete protection through trusted, proven tips for safeguarding yourself and your loved ones against the living dead. It is a book that can save your life."

This parody is immensely entertaining. It has become rather popular and already has a Wikipedia entry which would normally be unusual for a book such as this. I learned about the book from one of my undergraduate students. I got an inter library loan of the book from another library and have now ordered a personal copy for myself.

The most interesting part of the book for me was the history section. Brooks wrote in a section titled Recorded Attacks, "This is not a list of all zombie attacks throughout history. This simply chronicles all attacks for which the information has been recorded, survived, and been released to the author of this book. Accounts for societies with an oral history have been more difficult to acquire" (p. 182).

In the alternate history laid out by Brooks, zombies have had a big impact on human history. Starting with his account of archaeological evidence from 60,000 B.C. up until 2002 in the U.S. Virgin Islands, it relates zombie influence on historical events. In all, Brooks presented 80 pages of alternate history in this book. It is very amusing. Zombie outbreaks can explain many things including why ancient Egyptians took the brains out of mummies (so they could not become zombies!), the end of the Norse Greenland colony, and the gruesome fate of the Roanoke colonists and their Croatan allies.

You will be hearing more about this book in the coming years. Brooks wrote in 2006 a book titled World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. The book chronicles a theoretical zombie apocalypse using oral history interviews with survivors. I have yet to read it but have ordered it from Amazon as well. A movie version of the book will be released in 2010.

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