Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

The Zombie Survival Guide
By Max Brooks

Published: 2003

Synopsis: The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Fully illustrated and exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including  how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain.

My thoughts: With 2012 fast approaching, and the supposed end of the world (in December I believe) it's only right that we're all up to date with our zombie apocalypse training. With that in mind I gave Max Brooks Zombie Survival Guide because people keep assuring me that if anyone knows how to survive the persistent attack of undead foes it's Mr Brooks. A quick perusal of his Survival Guide does suggest a certain readiness on Mr Brooks part as he outlines the best survival options regarding food, transport, weapons, accommodation and future preparations for surviving in a world populated by decaying ex-humans.

I thought the concept for this book was great, and it was obvious Brooks spent a long time researching and conceptualising the idea, but I found the format really, really dry. I was lucky if I could get through more that 15-20 pages at a time, so this book has taken me close to 2 weeks to get through, and I doubt I could have cut that time down. It was a similar experience for me as reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the gimmick wore off quickly and I sat there reading it thinking, "why am I wasting my time reading about barricading houses and head shots when I could be reading True Grit or World War Z?" Bottom line, it just wasn't my cup of tea. I love zombies, I love apocalypse or dystopian fiction, but this book was missing all that meat. It took the fun out of it for me, it reduced it to a school text book for me and...blechhh. That said, I do think there would be people who could enjoy this book (in fact I know some of them), you just have to be open to this format of book.

The final chapter somewhat redeemed the whole experience for me. Quite a bit longer than the others that proceeded it, this chapter was a chronological account of zombie threats and attacks that have happened in the past. Spanning from the earliest account in 60,000 B.C of cave painting depicting a zombie attack (central Africa) to the most recent (at time of publishing) in 2002 of a single zombie in St. Thomas which has spawned a tourist campaign similar to the loch ness monster, the chapter covers attacks from across the globe and is formulated mostly thanks to 'unnamed' informants who were able to take the original files or archived documents from police stations, government agencies and even the Vatican. I think if these accounts had been dotted through the other chapters more (although there already was the occasional anecdote) I would have found it easier to push through the drier content. The tales in this final chapter were full of conspiracies and government cover-ups and some even wound real historical figures (Alexander the Great makes an appearance) or events into the story, and, while still written rather academically, were far more interesting and engaging that the rest of the book put together.

While I found it a tough to read through this entire book, I can't actually fault it in terms of writing or ideas. Max Brooks clearly put a lot of time and energy into it and wrote in accordance with the style of book he was trying to create. The only problem is that I would never otherwise think to crack open a survival guide, perhaps even with an actual apocalypse breathing down my neck! I'd only recommend this to people who are interested with the idea of a survival guide, and are happy to read a book devoid of any plot, characters or action sequences. Definitely a book for specific people only!

3 out of 5 head shots.


  1. Useful review - I've been thinking of getting this, but was put off because I thought it might be exactly what you suggest: a one trick pony. So now I'll get a different book instead, and hopefully a better one. Huzzah!

  2. Probably a good idea James, unless you know someone with a copy and maybe borrow it from them to check out. I think part of the problem is you can't really read it like a book, maybe it should have been something I picked up once in awhile and read over an entire year.

  3. If you like World War Z by the way, then Zombie Apocalypse (ed. by Stephen Jones) is worth checking out. It's a similar concept but with multiple authors involved.

  4. Thanks James. I think that format of book would work fantastically as an anthology, can't wait to check it out!

  5. I remember seeing inscriptions of “aliens” or non-human beings in their temples, so could 2012 be the date we find out we are not alone, and that there might be a zombie outbreak, and that our visitors will fail at preventing our safety, just a thought in the works, plus say it is “I” who creates the zombie virus, will I, then be the new leader of the NWO, and have Zombie #1 Bill Gates #2 Clinton #3 Bush in my collectors list of zombie pets?
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