Book Review: The Zombie Survival Guide By Max Brooks

Who would ever have thought that a “self help” book based on a fictional situation could ever been so, well, helpful? Max Brooks, author of World War Z sets out to do just that in the Zombie Survival Guide. I bought it for Kindle a little while back, thinking it would be an amusing and quirky curiosity. It is, but it is so much more with it at the same time.

Divided into six comprehensive sections, Brooks attempts to cover all his bases here. From an examination of the disease (called Solanum) that has led to various zombie outbreaks throughout history, we see its effects on the human body and its shocking results. It looks at zombie behavioural patterns and what advantages we have over zombies (speed, wit) and what advantages zombies have over humans (never tiring, never needing sleep).

Following sections cover weapons and their usefulness or otherwise, the types of vehicles you could use – and their relative advantages and disadvantages. Want to know how to fortify your house against zombie attack? Or what types of buildings and complexes make for good or poor zombie defence? It’s all here. Even where you live in the world makes all the difference to your survival chances and how you can best relocate to maximise your chances of an extended survival period. What supplies do you need? What should you avoid? What do zombie books and films get wrong? What measures are a sure fire why to joining the ranks of the undead?

No non-fiction book has ever been so immersive. No non-fiction book based on a fictional situation ever made you feel that this was a very real danger to your imminent survival. The final section looks at zombie attacks throughout history, starting with cave paintings that are subject to furious debate amongst anthropologists, through classical and to modern history. Tales of survival and strategy and faux historical sources add depth to this fascinating volume. What’s more, some of these events really took place (minus the zombies!) and have been reinterpreted to fit with the undead narrative.

This is the sort of book that Ray Mears or Bear Grylls would write if they were experts in zombie survival. It implores survivors to use the lay of the land, to forage and hoard food, to stock up supplies. It also warns against the other threats. There is far more in a wilderness than zombies that can kill you. Disease spread by carcasses, malnutrition and thirst overtake groups of people under siege, bands of humans with a malevolent agenda, natural disaster, rioters, looters, lack of crops, pests and disease. Brooks leaves no stone unturned in attempting to help you last the distance against the next zombie uprising.

It’s a cracking read too. I finished it in just a couple of days. It makes a great companion to World War Z and adds depth to Brooks’ zombie lore. It even lampoons some tropes of zombie books and films, though never mentions them directly.

Keep it handy because you never know when you are going to need it!

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