The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead
Max Brooks; Three Rivers Press, 2003

A review and summary of a real book you can actually go out and purchase, not my own ideas on what to do about a scourge of zombies.

After years of zombie movies callously exploiting the tragedy of an attack by the living dead, someone has finally published a responsible and informative resource on how to deal with the nasty fuckers. Max Brooks, son of Mel and a writer for Saturday Night Live, offers a thorough overview of everything one needs to know about zombies. Besides the survival techniques the title promises, Brooks also delves into the science of how zombies are created and live/don't live. For the cynic, the information is bolstered by a history of known zombie attacks.

If you know or live near any people, this book is a must-read. In the event of an outbreak, your family and friends, after all, are only so many future zombies.

Zombification, we learn, is the end result of a virus called Solanum. The virus spreads quickly from the point of infection, poisoning the body and killing it, then reanimating the tissues. The depiction of zombies as seen in the traditional George Romero films is very close to accurate. The "zombies" of 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake are figments of some video game-addled and prurient imagination.

These creatures are slow, but persistent. They are capable of some basic communication, in that the bone-chilling zombie moan will call other zombies. If one zombie stumbles upon your hideout and has reason to believe that you, the quarry, are behind a door, its moan will draw its ilk, who have an infinite amount of time to spend throwing the weight of several human bodies against your door. Zombies, given a purpose, can get through anything.

Slow and stupid they may be, but zombies represent a real danger to the living if not dealt with quickly and correctly. Brooks provides a handy checklist of ten points to help us survive zombie attacks.

1. Organize before they rise!

Being ready for a zombie attack is the best way out of it. We prepare for earthquake, fire, flood. Many of the necessary precautions in a zombie attack are the same. We need a safe place stocked with supplies and the ability to generate our own food and water when our supplies run out.

Brooks gives step by step directions on selecting a team to escape with, building a remote fortress where you and your friends can survive, perhaps for decades, and conducting drills to prepare for the inevitable.

2. They feel no fear, why should you?

Running around all hysterical about "Oh, woe is me! My baby daddy tried to gnaw my arm off and I had to kill him!" is not going to do you any good. Either keep a cool head, or do what remains of humanity a favor and suck on a shotgun. Lose control of your emotions and you might as well inject yourself with a big dose of Solanum. You're as good as undead.

3. Use your head: cut off theirs.

Always go for the head. They don't feel pain, so wounding them anywhere else isn't going to do you any good. Even if you cut off their limbs, in a decade when some innocent child is playing in leftover zombie carnage, if she gets too close to the twitching torso - chomp! - Mommy and Daddy have to decapitate her.

4. Blades don’t need reloading.

Guns may seem a tempting defense. Indeed, many burglars and drug lords can be frightened off with even a modest handgun. But guns should be your last resort in a zombie attack.

  • Guns are no good without bullets, which may be hard to come by after an apocalypse.
  • Guns take practice. An untrained survivor could run out of ammo or accidentally shoot another living human before hitting a zombie.
  • Guns are noisy. They attract zombies.
  • As stated above, guns need reloading. They're slower than bladed weapons.

Even if you could be assured of being far enough away from the zombies to effectively dispense them with a sniper rifle, you'd attract more with every shot. Against these slow, bungling creatures, your sneakers are your best defense. If they fail you and you're surrounded, a bladed weapon is more likely than a gun to save your ass.

5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.

Zombies, not being as limber as they might have been in life when they were still attending yoga class, prefer to grab you and drag you toward them. Besides making convenient handles for zombies, long hair and loose clothing can get caught on things while you're trying to run away. An apocalypse is no time to be wearing a ballgown.

6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it.

Maybe one of the most useful nuggets Brooks offers is this: zombies can't climb. If you get to higher ground and make it inaccessible from below and zombies still manage to get you, it can only be because God really hates you.

7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.

Gun is to machete as car is to bike. Cars are noisy and consume resources you can't always count on having. They're large and can't maneuver easily through blocked roadways. Most only work well where there are roads. Pack an air pump with your machete and you have permanent transportation.

Again, remember that you don't have to be Carl Lewis to outrun a zombie.

8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!

It's easy to hide from zombies, and it's a hell of a lot easier than trying to fend off forty who've surrounded you and are vying for a piece of your sweet ass.

9. No place is safe, only safer.

According to Brooks, these things can live for decades. If they manage to wander into the colder regions of the world, they could be preserved for several lifetimes as they freeze, then thaw for a few months each summer. You may get to your safe place and make a life there, you may watch your children grow up, and still someday a zombie comes wandering out of the woods. Don't let down your guard.

10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on.

The end of the world will cause lots of problems. Besides zombies, you'll have to contend with the prospect of disease and starvation, looters and bandits, depression, hopelessness... Even if you do manage to survive the zombies, every day will be a struggle. Some days you might wish you'd been eaten.

A zombie attack is no fun.

I'm merely providing the simplest kind of overview of the material in Mr. Brooks' guide. If zombies attack on your way to the bookstore, at least you'll have something. You never know when it will be too late. Acquire and study this guide. The world can do without one more zombie.

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