Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Don't worry,...

...everything's gonna be alright." (Gu, "World War Z" by Max Brooks)

My horror writing buddies will go into shock when they find out I'm not a zombie fan. Hell, I even dressed up as one (Thanks to Mama-Zom's excellent make-up skills!) during Seton Hill's 2012 winter WPF residency. It was then that I convinced myself that perhaps zombies had a tiny bit of merit. Miniscule.

But really, I don't get the dead flesh dustrags. They don't even creep me. They're messy, distasteful and they're not very smart (as a rule) so I don't understand how they got to be popular. I mean, at least a werewolf or a vampire has  a measure of intelligence and style. 

Zombies are nothing more than thrift store horror. Rags and old blood pasted onto walking decayed flesh. What's sweet about that? I think my next t-shirt's gonna say, "Got Brains?" A fun loving poke at those who tout a passion for the ghouls.

But I digress. I'm supposed to be spouting off my review of "World War Z." Honestly, I thought it was going to be a painful read. My thumbs flipped through the pages and I eyeballed the text and thought, OMG, there's f'ing zombies in this book. Apocalypse in my hands. What on earth shall I do?

I often look up writers that I haven't read before, see what they've written and so on. I didn't know Brooks wrote, "The Zombie Survival Guide." Guess when you're a writer and you discover your niche you stay there for a while. What I found interesting, zit-popped from our beloved 'Wikipedia,' was that Brooks did a lot of research for this book. Everything from the technology to military tactics. I think that's part of what made it so believable when I read it. A reader can tell (most of the time) when an author knows their topic well versus blowing smoke up the rectal canal.

I didn't understand how this book was put together at first. I was confused until I realized that each chapter was an interview with a different person. Now, while Zombies aren't my thing, interviews are. There's something about asking questions and listening to people answer that fascinates me. And it's not just asking questions, but asking the 'right' questions. So, where just any old Zombie novel might have turned me off, I found I enjoyed the interview style of this story.

Things I wondered as I read: How did the main character get to all of those different global locations ? There's no date/time-stamp so it's hard to tell how long it is between interviews. I understand he's a UN employee, but wow...despite the crisis he sure seemed to get around with no problem. And I didn't make any connection to the places he travels. They don't seem to have a purpose. They're completely random to me. 

The other thing is, as someone who does interviews, there would be more interaction/dialogue from the main character. It's not realistic to have someone launch into a long diatribe  about their experience or background. Still, it was a fun read. And timely, given the explosion of Zombie movies, novels, graphic novels and other media today.

And present day, Zombies are spreading across the airwaves. People play with the walking dead in games like Black Ops, and if you believe in any kind of hostile Big Brother, then the jokes on you. BB not only learns how you think, but teaches YOU how to think. Resistance is futile. Chew on that.

I blame my primrose path thinking today on the fact I'm almost 50 and plagued by a debilitating form of arthritis. It keeps me in bed on off days when it's cloudy and cold. But most days I have to say, "fuck it and gutt it," and go to work, or go to the gym to try to stay fit, or go surfing because it's one of the things I enjoy and the cold water actually helps reduce the inflammation of my joints. And yes, I have medications. Sad news is they don't usually help. Maybe if I was a zombie, I'd get around better. So hey all you zombies out there, bite me.



  1. Joe posted a great zombie video that explains how zombies are a blank slate for which writers can illustrate current fears. Although zombies aren't that scary by themselves (I'm sure they would be more terrifying in real life, as is everything), the tension is usually built around how humans react. Zombies may not be terrifying, but as people have mentioned, not being able to find necessary medication is scary and realistic even without zombies. One game I've played, Dead Rising 2, throws an interesting twist into the dynamic of zombies. In the game, a new medication can be administered to victims that have been bitten, and they will keep from changing for a day or so. It's not hard to imagine how, in a post-apocalyptic world, the value for this medication would skyrocket, how tensions would rise, how people would kill for this stuff. This shows how the story is using zombies to illustrate the current fear of problematic health care systems and the high prices of medicine. So, I guess I'm trying to say I can see your point about zombies not being scary but give them a chance because the situations they present can offer so much.

  2. I think I get one of the reasons zombies might be seen as scarier than a werewolf or a vampire. It’s the horde, the legion aspect of it. For example, I like rats. I have owned rats as pets. One rat, two rat, no big deal. But if you stick me in a room crawling with rats…there is going to be a problem, and I’m sure a serious reaction. Make those zombie rats…and I am now sufficiently terrified.

  3. I agree with R.D. on this. It's not really about the zombies, it's about seeing how humans react when faced with them. It's the same reason for the popularity of the Giant ___s movies of the 50's. The classic monster movie often has very little of the monster in it. It's more about the people in fear, and the hero facing that fear. It was only really in the late 70's (with some outliers) that we got horror movies that were more about the monster itself that the human reaction to it. Look at the horror novels, until that time period, it was unheard of to write a novel in the POV of the monster. They were always about the human struggle to vanquish the monster.

  4. I think what gave me the most enjoyment from this work was how the people interacted with one another and the zombie provided the catalyst and background to intensify the subtext Brooks had about humanity and governmental control. Another thing was how much research he put into the work; as a tank crewman in the Army I learned quite a bit about the tank, obviously. Brooks surprised me with his knowledge. Without serving time, he had every detail written about the tank accurately, not a single one out of place with reality.