And John. And Mike, Natalie, Tania, Greg. Everybody really, no one’s brain is safe.
So, I’m talking about zombies, specifically Max Brooks’ guide to surviving them. You may not be taking this subject seriously (because most people don’t) but give Max a chance and he’ll have you feeling like a sceptical fool, like a fool I tells ya.
Before I had read any of Max Brooks’ work on zombies, I was already pondering how to survive a zombie apocalypse (only on occasion, not constantly. I’m not weird…) as my favourite film is Shaun of the Dead and I think I’ve watched it approximately 287 times.
The end of the human race does seem to be a morbid fascination for a lot of people and the zombie hypothesis is very “now”. Zombie walks seem to be catching on in more cities (they have one here in Amsterdam) and the success of the US tv show The Walking Dead appears to be continuing public appetite for the undead.
So, back to the book… I’ll be upfront, it’s been a while since I’ve read Survival Guide so if a zombie outbreak does happen, I’ll need to put my speed reading pants on while maintaining a sharp lookout for any incoming ghouls.
The book begins with a section entitled ‘The Undead: Myths and Realities’, where Brooks starts off with an explanation of ‘Solanum’, the virus which can turn people into zombies (your scepticism level is at a 10 here), zombie types and attributes and finishes with the different classes of zombie outbreaks.
Now he’s got you settled in this hypothetical world, Brooks moves on to more practical matters: weaponry and combat techniques. He evaluates each option, accompanying them with simple manual-style drawings so you can better imagine which you would choose to help you fight off the hoards of blood-hungry undead. (Scepticism level has dipped to 7 here as you start to think “Even if it’s not zombies I need to fight off, I’m probably not as bad-ass as I’d always imagined”.)
Survival Guidecovers pretty much any situation imaginable: defending, attacking, being on the run, living in an undead world. He gives you general rules for each scenario, along with evaluations of terrain, vehicles, strategies, duration, buildings and weapons. Again. (Scepticism level is now at 4. “28 Days Later seemed a little far-fetched at the time but now I know all this, maybe it’s not so ludicrous…”)
Okay, so he’s written in a sufficiently sober tone and covered any area you could think of. You’ve unwittingly found yourself choosing and discounting weapons and tactics but there’s not anything else he could pull out of the bag to undermine your better judgement. Is there? How about a list of recorded attacks, dating from 60,000 B.C. to 2002.
Of course, it’s pseudo-history. No one really believes there have so many attacks from zombies that have been either lost to history or covered up by governments. Governments are, um, honest. Sometimes. Shit. (Scepticism level: 1.) Uh-oh, he’s reserved a space at the back of the book for a journal of suspicious events. Which weapon did he say would be best…?
What sticks with you after you’ve finished Survival Guide is rampant paranoia; you’re actually starting to listen out for the sounds of society breaking down and raw flesh being ripped from bone. Brooks’ tag line is ‘Complete Protection from the Living Dead’ and he’s not exaggerating – the only things he’s left for you to do is stockpile the canned food, choose your best weapon and lie in wait.
P.S. If you hadn’t heard of Max Brooks before reading this post, the name might be a little more familiar after next year (possibly, I don’t think there’s an official date). Brad Pitt is starring in a film adaptation of another of Brooks’ books, World War Z, which is set in an post-zombie apocalyptic world