I am what one would call an aficionado of all things zombie. The subject has been an interest of mine since I saw my very first true zombie film: Night of the Living Dead. Romero’s seminal work made such an impact in my young mind that, despite the primal sensation of fear I felt while watching it, my curiosity and imagination won out. I was stilled scared shitless for the next couple weeks once night arrived, but it didn’t stop me from thinking about it then letting my young mind start thinking of what I would do if put in a similar situation. It’s almost two decades since that moment and I still think about such things whenever the topic turns to things zombies.
I first came across Max Brooks’ book when I was browsing the web and decided to check out a site a fellow zombie-fan had recommended I visit: HomePageoftheDead.com. It was my first time visiting the site and right from the beginning I saw a link that had Brooks’ book title on it. I clicked it to see what it was all about. Lo and behold it was a for real survival guide on what to do if and when a zombie outbreak ever occurred. I knew it was one of those satire, gag books taking a ludicrous, albeit funny situation and writing a faux-serious work of instructions and guidelines around it. It didn’t take me long to check if Amazon had the book for sale and it did to my surprise. The moment I received the book I sat down and read it from beginning to end in a day’s time.
Max Brooks’ experience as a comic staff writer for Saturday Night Live and being Mel Brooks’ son probably helped in keeping the book from being too campy and also overly serious. Brooks’ hit the right balance of seriousness and yet giving every procedural instructions on how to survive and the optimal way of surviving a darkly black comedic tone to it all. Part of me was thoroughly amused and even laughed out loud a few times as I read through the guide, but part of me also felt a bit of dread in how real his descriptions were and how much common sense his survival guide had for the reader to take note of. I thought the final chapter describing documented reports of zombie outbreaks throughout man’s history was especially well-done. It sure made some of the darker moments in man’s history take on a much more horrifying note.
Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide has been a great addition to my collection of dvds, comics and novels about the zombie subgenre. It also helped continue my on-going interest in the what-if scenarios of such an event from ever happening. His writing balances both satire and horror and the book is much better than it should be because of it. Being a zombie aficionado I would highly recommend this to like-minded readers and would gradually introduce it to those who have no notion of such a topic. One never knows when the fantastic suddenly becomes horrifyingly real. When and if it ever does happen, I know this book will have served me and mine well.
I would also like to point out that in addition to this book is a companion volume released by the comic book publisher, Avatar Press which takes those so-called historical accounts of zombie outbreak incidents and creates a graphic novel out of it. Again, Max Brooks has a hand in writing this book. He took some of the longer entries in the survival guide’s last chapter and rewrites them to better fit the comic book format.
The artwork by Ibraim Roberson for The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks are some of the finest black & white inks I’ve seen and definitely one of the best zombie artwork. Roberson really captures the grotesque and hungry nature of the undead as Brooks’ describes them. Even though there’s no color involved in all the visuals it still doesn’t diminish the scenes of gore. I think it actually makes the scenes even more effective as the reader imagines the colors being there while reading them. There was no need to add to the shock value when it was already shocking.
While I wish they could’ve included every historical entry from The Zombie Survival Guide in this graphic novel I understand that to do so would mean a book at least over a hundred pages or more in size. Maybe there’ll be a plan to make a second volume if this first one sells well. Fans of Max Brooks’ guide can only hope that this indeed is what he and Avatar Press have in mind. Despite not having everything I expected it to the graphic novel was still a find companion piece to Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide with some of the best looking zombie artwork outside of The Walking Dead‘s Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.
The Zombie Survival Guide
The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks