A guide to zombie literature
Zombie literature spans many genres.
Feb. 12, 2010
Although the world has yet to see the undead rising from their graves and forming shambling, massive hordes out for our delicious brain-meats, zombies have captured the minds and imaginations of many a college student. How many times have you heard a friend demand, "What's your zombie plan?" These books offer a look at the phenomenon across genres and will hopefully do something to engage your braaaaiiins.
Classics (for the English major):
"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
The first sentence of the book so gleefully twists the original it's almost worth the cost of the book on its own, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." Claims that the book contains untouched Jane Austen passages with inserted zombie fight scenes will disappoint expectations.
Elizabeth tends to sharpen her sword faster than her wit and has to fight an unusual amount of ninjas, who come from seemingly nowhere (granted, this is a ninja specialty). The charm of the book lies in the delight Grahame-Smith takes in deconstructing the book, which serves as a near Bible for dedicated Austenites. Don't worry — Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth still clash, just not in the way you might remember from high school English.
Survivalist/How-to (for the true zombie believer):
"The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead" by Max Brooks
Knowledge must be complete, and despite the humorous satire, Brooks carefully and thoroughly documents his guide. The first part, "The Undead: Myths and Realities," will help readers understand zombie behavior, good for staying safe and keeping tabs on those you think might have succumbed to the disease. Discussion of weapons and combat techniques will prepare the determined survivalist for defense, running and attack.
Helpful when drawing up zombie plans, the guide tackles important questions such as the virtue of a flamethrower or a machine gun. Aficionados will laugh while reading and in the future when the apocalypse is upon us and they're the only ones with an entire list of back-up plans to fight of the oncoming hordes.
Anthology (for the zombie novice):
"Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead" edited by John Skipp
For anyone interested in getting a foothold in the world of the undead, this 32-story collection is a great place to start. First, it takes the development of the creatures into account. The book is divided into stories with a more classic zombie feel and those that feature huge groups of turned unfortunates and the people desperately trying to fight them off.
You'll find some familiar names in the classics section you don't expect (Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury?), but the second half serves up authorities unrecognized in the world outside of the genre. Anyone who has already devoured a collection or two of zombie-based stories will want to steer clear, as many of the stories are included elsewhere. Anyone who wants to learn more? Bon appétit.
Scientific (for the zombie skeptic): "The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist's Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis, and Magic" by Wade Davis
The title might be a little heavy-handed, but the book delivers what it promises. Davis recounts his trip to the Amazon in search of a poison that can turn people into real-life zombies. The result is a study of Haitian history and social order, as a well as a look into secret societies that punish people by turning them into zombies as a form of social justice. The account grounds itself in fact — Davis actually went to Haiti and did his best to integrate in society (as any good anthropologist will do). The story serves as a compelling account of what skeptics can't deny — even if they aren't Hollywood, zombies do exist.