I’m not sure when my obsession with Zombies began. To clarify, I’m not a 14-year-old Caucasian male, and the only exposure I have had to Left 4 Dead is… well none, but there’s enough to keep my obsession well fed in so many other places.
Now why Zombies, you ask? Is it the blood and gore? Or is it because they simply don’t give a fuck?
In my slow, shuffling journey down the road with the undead I’ve not only been awed by the generous lust for blood and brains, and the notgivingafuck-ery, but also by the platform that Zombies give us to reflect our constantly evolving world. Maybe I’m over-intellectualizing Zombies? Sure, maybe, actually no.
I first came upon “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” by Max Brooks 2 years ago. Brook’s painstakingly through, intricately researched, personal accounts of people who lived through The (fictional) Great Zombie pandemic of 2007 left me sleepless for nights. Spanning the globe and covering people from the upper echelons of the South African government, an Indian shipping yard to the frozen reaches of the Tundra, WWZ rightly deserves the Bible status it enjoys in the Zombie literature genre.
And that’s simply where the book begins. Brook’s uses zombies to make relevant commentary on social issues (including the story of a hikikomori‘s survival during an attack) , political issues (chilling statements about America’s isolationism), and the of course, fragility of the human body and mind.
Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio’s production houses fought for the film-rights of the book and Brad Pitt will be starring in the film when it is released in 2011. Nate DiMeo of Slate.com has said that it is a “smarter-than-it-has-any-right-to-be zombie novel.”
Max Brooks, is also author of “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead” a how-to guide in defending yourself against the Zombie hordes; from what would be the most effective kind of weapon to posses to what kind of terrain you should cover. (Max Brooks is, incidentally, also the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.)
What Max Brooks has done with two novels is astounding. He has created a narrative for the Zombie subculture, giving it a place, in a way that is relate-able, contemporary and scary in a cold sweat, nausea, call-my-mom-just-to-say-hi-oh-no-nothing’s-wrong-just-wanted-to-say-hi kind of way.
1. To be or not to be a zombie
Most texts in Zombie literature make vague references to how human beings become Zombies. The ones that do explain, attribute it to some kind of virus that enters the human blood stream through saliva and blood exchange. A simple bite and you could end up dead, or well…undead.
And the only way that one has been known to kill a zombie is by destroying its brain. You could shoot it, freeze it, drown it and it would amble on, unfreeze and come right back out of the water to continue being its un-dead hungry self.
2. I might have said this earlier but, BRAAAAINNS
There’s something fantastic about the unadulterated, insatiable lust for flesh that Zombies are said to have. They only want one thing, your brain, and there’s no excuses. In one of the stories of WWZ, a man describes how he saw a Zombie burrow after a giant rat in the ground for 5 days continuously, at the end of which it managed to get away from the zombie. The zombie just stopped burrowing, turned around and ambled after the next thing that caught his eye. The bastards are unstoppable.
3. They’re not human
Apart from the aforementioned persistence that surpasses human capabilities, you can’t reason with a zombie, you can’t pretend to play dead, and sure you can outrun it, but the sheer ease with which they’re made, you’re soon going to be outnumbered. Either way, you’re lunch.
What specifically scares the be-jesus out of me when it comes to Zombies? They look just like the people we know and love before they started taking bites out of the neighbor. They’re human in form, but they have no fear. You as a human being will panic, will flee, will hide, meanwhile a zombie will amble after you till it gets what it wants, no questions asked, all obstacles ignored. Super-human, dabaang type. Zombies are the ultimate example of motivation and on many levels, a story of the most horrific scenario of all- when we start turning against ourselves.
EDIT: For all Lit snobs, please note, there is also this. Don’t quote me on it, but there may or may not be a NINJA in this book somewhere. (There is! There is! There is a fucking ninja in here. Sorry.)