Book Review: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

May 8, 2012

Book Reviews, Self Defense

Zombies: the undead

Almost a year ago, the Assistant Surgeon General for Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta wrote a post on his official blog entitled, “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.” It quickly caught the attention of the some in the main stream media including Fox News. Some thought it funny; some thought it odd; some thought it was a waste of taxpayer money. (The link has since been removed from the CDC blog site.)

Many in the prepping community thought it was a subtle hint from the government that we, as individuals and as families, should be preparing even more than we currently are.

The Zombie Apocalypse

So, what is the Zombie Apocalypse? It has a couple of commonly accepted definitions.

Night of the Living Dead

For some, the Zombie Apocalypse refers to actual flesh eating “undead” who roam the earth trying to satisfy their insatiable appetite for human meat. In that scenario, a virus affects the brain tissue of a living person, killing them, and then allowing them to “reanimate” shortly after the natural person dies. The undead are difficult to stop since normal bodily functions do not exist. They are not susceptible to injuries that would stop a normal person. The only two ways of stopping a virus-infected ghoul is to burn it completely or to destroy its brain.

Many consider the “undead” scenario good for fodder for Hollywood movies but completely unrealistic. That sort of thing simply could not happen off of the silver screen.

The Golden Horde

Another interpretation of the Zombie Apocalypse deals less with the realm of Hollywood plots and is more concerned with real-life TEOTWAWKI possibilities. What happens when The End of the World as We Know It Happens? What happens when an economic collapse or an EMP cause the government to lose control?

Consider life in a major city like New York. Without transportation available to truck food into the city, without an infrastructure to dispose of garbage and sewage, without a police force to maintain control of the citizenry, what would life be like there?

Unprepared for such an event, many would flee the city. Starving, desperate, and without any sort of supplies, they would quickly turn violent and prey on the helpless. That’s the modern-day Golden Horde and that’s what some refer to as the Zombie Apocalypse.

Max Brooks’ Zombie Apocalypse

Zombie Survival Guide BookIn his 2003 book, The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks ostensibly tackles the more traditional Hollywood-style scenario – the “reanimated” undead. It’s become a near-instant cult-classic.

Written like a para-military field manual, the book offers some good insight into preparing for a uncertain times and properly reacting to a surprise Zombie uprisings.

The first portion of the book is dedicated to describing zombies – the undead ghouls that roam the earth devouring human flesh. Brooks describes how the cause of their infection and how to recognize them. Although it’s interesting as a backdrop, there is no real value to the first portion of the book for the prepper. Don’t misunderstand, it’s a valuable part of the book and without it, the book would be incomplete. However, there its little to be gained in terms of knowledge for the prepper.

Approximately one-half of the book discusses how to select weapons for close combat, ways to fortify your dwelling in the event of an attack, how to move without being detected during an infestation, and how to coordinate a defense when there is no help on the way. These topics introduce some interesting concepts for the prepper concerned with the Golden Horde.

The final section lists supposed Zombie uprisings throughout history. Once again, this section had some entertainment value but there was little to glean from it for the prepper with one overarching exception. Brooks cleverly describes the way governments throughout history have misreported and covered up the outbreaks.

Final Analysis

In the end, I enjoyed reading The Zombie Survival Guide. I can see why it’s become a cult-classic and why many preppers have drifted toward reading it for more than its entertainment value. It is fictional? Yes. However, sometimes truth can be even stranger than fiction.

What did you think of the book? 

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