I recently read Max Brooks’ World War Z (and discussed it here!), and loved the concept and creativity of it so much that I immediately went on to its predecessor, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead. I had no idea that this was written before World War Z until I looked it up, and I’m actually glad I read them in this order.
World War Z tells the oral history of the ten-year zombie war in the form of a United Nations agent’s report, and although written prior to it, The Zombie Survival Guide almost seems like it could be an addition to said report. If the report written in World War Z was too “personal” for the UN (see my previous review), this would be the fact-based, impersonal account they probably would have wanted.
Brooks’ knack for detail is something I commend in my other review, and it’s something that jumps out even more with this read. He goes in-depth with everything that one surviving a zombie war would need to know, like the source and transference of the virus to its four classes of outbreaks; what (very specific) combat weapons to use, should they be available; how to protect your home should they not be available; transportation; and even “living in an undead world” should the human world falter under the walking dead’s bloody hands. In a move that was imitated quite well by the comedy-horror movie Zombieland, Brooks also lists his basic rules for survival in each section.
Then, with dates that play into the “historical” events in World War Z, he creates a timeline of recorded attacks in various countries around the world, each with a section of its own to describe the people and events involved. And what good would history be without the opportunity to repeat itself? Probably the most charming part of the book is the “Outbreak Journal” in the back, used by the reader to record “events that could indicate a possible outbreak,” (249).
Brooks seals the deal with quirky illustrations — in case you didn’t know what a rowboat was, or how to operate one, he slaps a very informative picture at the top of page 122 — that complement the half-serious, half-jesting tone of the book perfectly. Although, Brooks does warn not to “discount any section of this book as hypothetical drama,” so maybe we are to take it entirely seriously. I guess we’ll see if (when!) the apocalypse does happen.