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Alive 14
Read This!
                          The Zombie Survival Guide

                  "Complete protection from the living dead"

                               by Max Brooks

This  is  where  it all starts,  Max Brooks,  son of the not so obscure  Mel
Brooks,  has  taken it on himself to warn us of the clear and present danger
from the hordes of undead. As he puts it in the introduction.

"The dead walk among us. Zombies, ghouls, no matter what their label - these
somnabulists  are  the  greatest threat to  humanity,  other  than  humanity
itself.  To call them predators and us prey would be innacurate.  They are a
plague, and the human race their host. The lucky victims are devoured, their
bones scraped clean,  their flesh consumed.  Those not so fortunate join the
ranks of their attackers, transformed into putrid carnivorous monsters..."

The  Zombie  Survival  Guide  was written in 2003,  it  is  described  as  a
satirical  take  on  the  survivalist literature,  by  taking  a  completely
straight-faced  approach to surviving a completely fictional  threat.  There
may  well be post 9-11 echoes in this choice of subject matter as well.  The
follow-up  book,  'World  War  Z' takes a more in-depth look at  what  would
happen  in  the  event  of this fictional disaster  going  to  its  ultimate

The  book  is  split  into  several  sections,   starting  with  'Myths  and
Realities'.  This first part describes Max Brooks definition of what makes a
Zombie,  the  device of a fictional virus Solanum and how it is spread  (100
percent fatal, the vector is bodily fluids.) Also it describes the symptoms,
from  first  bite to resurrection.  He also takes the time to establish  his
version  of what should be zombie canon.  (They don't go around saying  they
want to eat brains!) He also spends a little while detailing the  difference
from  a voodoo zombie.  The voodoo zombie has some traces of humanity  left,
the  undead  zombie is totally inhuman,  a full-sized walking virus with  an
insatiable  desire  to  feed.  He also describes the four levels  of  zombie
outbreak, from minor to a full-scale class 4 world takeover.

There is a lot of discussion about the physiological aspects and functioning
of  a zombie,  it needs no sleep or rest,  and does not even make use of the
"food" that it eats so ravenously. The best way to understand a zombie is in
computing terms,  as a unitasking machine, which cannot be altered, and will
keep going until it is stopped.  There is also an explanation as to why they
don't  simply decompose and go away.  Solanum is resistant to most  bacteria
and toxic to life in general, zombies do rot away, but it takes years rather
than weeks or months.

Part  2,  'Weapons  and Combat Techniques' goes into detail on the best  and
worst  weapons  and defences to use in the event of a zombie  attack.  Head-
shots,   preferably  with  a  semi-automatic  rifle  or  light  carbine  are
recommended,  but  going  "rock  and roll" with a machine  gun  isn't!  Also
different  types  of  close-combat  weapons  are  discussed.   There  is  an
interesting  digression on the value of armour,  (or possibly not,  as tight
clothes and short hair are recommended here.)

'On  the  Defensive' looks at what you can do to fortify your  home  in  the
event of a local outbreak, or how to improvise a longer term sanctuary for a
bigger  siege.   Different  types  of  building  are  considered  for  their
defensible value, an old-style high-walled prison is good, a church is a bad
idea. The sound of people frantically praying as if the day of judgement has
come tends to draw more zombies to that location!

'On  the  Run' deals with what you do if you have to  move  through  zombie-
infested territory.  This is the most dangerous thing you can do, the author
points  out that a traveller will know what it feels like to be prey!  There
is detailed advice on how to prepare to travel,  assuming a journey on foot.
Other  modes of transportation are considered,  mostly as a bad idea,  apart
from bicycles,  or dirt-bikes. There is a section on travel by boat, and how
to traverse several different kinds of terrain.

'On  the Attack'  - The survival guide does not pretend to offer a  training
manual  for the would-be zombie hunter,  but some useful hints and tips  are
given  here.  Various  strategies  to hunt and kill zombies  are  explained,
including specific advice for specific terrain types,  and even a section on
subaquatic zombie 'fishing'!

'Living  in  an Undead World' explains the detailed measures that  might  be
needed in a class 4 outbreak, the scenario described in 'World War Z'. It is
suggested  that a lot of detailed planning should be done before  the  first
sign  of a zombie outbreak,  appropriate survivalist training is undertaken,
and  equipment  stockpiles set aside.  A team is gathered to flee to a  safe
location,  ideally  in  the harshest and most inaccesible terrain  possible.
Several different kinds of wilderness are considered for their  suitability.
Concealment  of the new settlement is suggested,  not only against  zombies,
but the various kinds of human problems that would be thrown up in the  wake
of a full-blown zombie outbreak. Indeed it is suggested that the group stays
in isolation for 20 years before sending out a scouting party to see what is

Finally,  we  have a series of case histories,  starting with one unverified
prehistoric outbreak,  going through ancient Egyption times, and including a
Roman  empire  aware  of,  and able to cope with the threat.  Various  other
historical epochs are covered, each adding a little bit more knowledge about
the  threat,  until  we  get to modern times where a lot of emphasis  is  on
covering  up the true nature of this,  the most recent outbreak being at  St
Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands, from a seaborne zombie.

The  book ends on a warning,  that with the burgeoning population and growth
of  urbanisation,  the opportunities for infectious diseases have never been
better,  and  that  there are two possible outcomes for the  Solanum  virus.
Firstly  that governments can publicise the threat and set up  organisations
to contain it, or else keep on trying to conceal it, with the real threat of
a full-on war between humanity and the zombies,  a premise which is followed
up in a later book I've mentioned a couple of times already!

The Zombie Survival Guide is entertaining and thought-provoking reading,  in
a  similar  fashion  to World War Z.  For the 'Living in  an  Undead  World'
chapter,  you could almost remove the zombies, and pencil in any other worst
case scenario for yourself.  It is an essential companion to the later book,
although  not explicitly following the timeline,  but the zombies operate in
the same fashion there as well. The Zombie Survival Guide is even referenced
in World War Z, critically by one commentator as 'too US-specific' with some
of its advice!

A  worthy  addition to the bookshelves of any self-respecting  zombie  geek,
once  you've  read  this  book,  you will be looking at  buildings  in  your
neighbourhood for weeks afterwards, assessing their defensive properties!

                                                   CiH,for Alive Mag,Nov '06.
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