Vampires, vampires, vampires. I’m getting sick of vampires. There are plenty of other cool undead out there. We don’t need to spend all of our time focusing on vampires. Take zombies, for example. This week the movie Zombieland was released on DVD. It’s a great movie that was lost in the shadow of all the vampire hype. Don’t get me wrong, I like vampires, but for monsters that shun bright lights they’re sure spending a lot of time hogging the spotlight. So move over vampires, and let the zombies have some attention for a while.
My first exposure to zombies in pop culture was through movies. It wasn’t until recently that I started reading zombie fiction. I was looking for something a little bit more engaging than just people being chased by the mindless undead. I’d had plenty of that on the big screen. I wanted my zombie story to have some kind of twist, something that sets it apart from the classic Dawn of the Dead, we’re coming to eat your flesh, zombies. I found exactly what I was looking for in the zombies stories below. Each combines a unique spin on the zombie genre with an excellent story.
If you’ve read it you’ll agree that this is the best zombie novel written to date. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and pick it up immediately. Whether you’re a fan of zombie stories or not, this is a must read.
The novel is a collection of “real life” accounts from a diverse cross-section of people on how they survived the zombie war. A UN worker interviews as many people as possible to get the most accurate account of what happened. The interview subjects are from various social and economic backgrounds, range in age from the very young to the very old, and live in areas spanning the entire globe.
This is the most realistic zombie story I know of. The people in this book seem real. They act and behave as you’d expect. There are no heroes, just regular people doing whatever it takes to survive.
Score: 10 on a d10
At its heart, The Rising is about a father trying to find his son as the world is overrun by zombies. In this reality zombies are not mindless. As people die, their corpses are possessed by entities from another dimension. They come to our reality to destroy every living creature, not just mankind. They are organized and they have a purpose. Their bodies may be dead, but their minds are active. The sequel is called City of the Dead. It picks up seconds after the events in The Rising. Both are really good.
Score: 9 on a d10
The book begins after the majority of the world’s population is already infected and are zombies. A UN arms inspector and his family were in Africa when the dead began walking. They were lucky enough to be protected by a ruthless warlord. However, the warlord is sick and the father agrees to lead an expedition to the UN building in Manhattan to get AIDS medicine in exchange for his daughter’s safety.
In New York a terrified medical student knows his chances of survival are slim. He speculates that the reason zombies are mindless is because their minds and bodies are starved of oxygen between death and reanimation. He hooks himself up to a ventilator and causes his own death. When he reanimates he’s amazed and horrified to find out he was right. Although revolted by what he’s become, he gets over it when he realizes that he can exert his will over the mindless drones walking the streets of Manhattan.
There are two sequels, Monster Nation and Monster Planet. I haven’t read either, but got them both for Christmas. If they’re half as good as the first book I’ll be happy.
Score: 9 on a d10
Were you a member of the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts when you were younger? Do you remember the Cub Book or the Scout Book. The Zombie survival guide is written in exactly that style. It’s full of easy to follow, step-by-step instructions on how to complete tasks, and it’s got simple illustrations of objects and people performing those tasks.
As I read this I thought that it was a very tongue-and-cheek take on the zombie phenomena. But as I read more I realized that Brooks is taking his material very, very seriously. He’s not mocking or condescending. He genuinely believes that when the zombies come, these instructions will save your life. And you know what, I believe him. I used the tactics and instructions described in The Zombie Survival Guide to create the Zombie Survival Flowchart.
Because of this book, my wife began researching survival techniques. She’s stocked the basement with non-perishable food and essential tools. For Christmas last year she got us “go bags” that we could pick up and run with, just in case. For our anniversary I bought her a crowbar, the most essential and versatile tool required to survive, according to Brooks. Yes, that’s the kind of power this book possesses.
Score: 10 on a d10
I’ve only read a few of the early issues of The Walking Dead but it still makes my list. Everyone who knows me and my love of comics and all things zombie insists that I go back and get caught up on this series. There are collected trades in hard cover and soft cover available if you’d rather not pick these up one issue at a time.
The series begins with a small town sheriff who awakens from being in a coma unaware that the zombie apocalypse has occurred while he was unconscious. He fights to survive while searching for his family. It’s a great story with amazing art.
Score: 9 on a d10
There is plenty of zombie fiction out there. These are just my top 5 recommendations. I’ve heard good things about Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, but I don’t think it’s something that I can get in to. Keeping in mind that we’re looking for stories about zombies – not mummies, liches, vampires or any other undead, what zombie books have you read and enjoyed?