Zombies are really hot right now, right? They seem to be THE thing, but why is that? What fascination do we have with disgusting corpses walking around killing and transforming the living?
Seriously, if you were to go up to a random person and be all “Dude, you’ve got to see this! It’s about these reanimated corpses that stalk and destroy everyone!” people might blink about that. Still, zombie fiction and film are attractive. It’s a big area for social commentary. That could mean we’re all zombies in some respect, doomed to follow our instincts and be manipulated by a greater force. It could also mean that we’re at the mercy to be hunted by things or people with baser, more violent instincts that have been drummed out of us by society. There are so many ways zombie metaphors could be spun, and they usually put us at the mercy of something. For whatever reason, this genre makes a big deal out of the fact that we’re vulnerable, and for whatever reason we really like that. What should be a terrifying concept is suddenly popular culture.
I don’t mind zombie fiction and film, but I will admit that I’m not as well-versed in it as I am vampire fiction or Eldergods, or other things. Still, I’ve read some astounding stuff, and I’m a fan of survivalist plots anyway. Seriously, one of these days we’ll get into my post-apocalyptic fetish…I’ve probably overdosed on the amount of comics/films/fiction/and lord knows what else that explore the topic. So for me, I love zombie fiction that explores a near but distant future of humanity and uses a plague/attack/whatever zombification process you prefer to show what could happen to us. I like zombie hordes as a catalyst to what we have the capability of becoming, ourselves.
That being said, I can’t remember the story, but I read a really GREAT anthology story at one point that had a background in voodoo. I really need to stop forgetting these title and author names, because it is truly one of the best stories I’ve ever read because it combined some very real circumstances of a reporter researching true zombie-ism and what happened to the victims (and the reporter, I think. I’m a little foggy on the ending). The beautiful thing was that it wasn’t written as a punchline story or a horror story per say…it was very much a literary, contemporary-style piece. And it was terrifying the way it mixed plausibility with the reporter’s obsession to figure out what was going on. I want to say it had something to do with the coffee-bringers of Haiti or something, but I just can’t remember.
Anyway, that tale aside, I’ve read some great zombie fiction in my day. So let’s take a look at a few titles.
– The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks – I will admit that I find this tongue-in-cheek as some later attempts to do the same thing. It’s brilliant as an alternate nonfiction piece and you can tell it was really thought out and well-executed. However, as a piece of afternoon reading, I’m not really sold on it. It definitely has its good and bad points – the bad points being that unless you are really, really into zombie lit or really into dry humor, you will probably find this a little dull at some point.
– World War Z by Max Brooks – However, I am in mad love with this book and I just want to say now that any movie incarnation is going to ruin it unless they just put it up on the screen as is. I tore through this book, and was truly humbled as a writer. This is so well thought out and explores the aftermath of a worldwide zombie apocalypse. You see through correspondence, journal entries, etc, how various countries cope with the situation and rebuild. It is incredibly detailed, meticulously put together, and really makes you believe that these sorts of things could happen. It really blurs the line between reality and fiction in a number of different ways: the fate of the world economy, the plausibility of science/disease gone wrong, the way humans will end up relating each other…it is insanely good. It also is humbling for me to read as an author because there is no way I will ever write something of that nature that masterfully. It’s not my purpose too – I have my own strengths – but I remember not only having my mind blown when reading this, but realizing that this is what it feels like to read someone who really knows what they’re doing.
– Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith – There are parts of this I really like. I like what is done with Elizabeth and again, I like how easily the two unlikely worlds slip together. Really, my problems with this are the same problems I find while reading the real Pride and Prejudice – I just can’t stay awake during it. I love Regency movies, but for some reason I can’t read this kind of literature without dropping off. It took all I had to get through the original Pride and Prejudice, and while this is entertaining and very true to the original story and the original time period…that tends to be what acts as a sleep-inducer for me. Nothing against it as a whole – I quite enjoyed it when I was awake. It’s truly a weird quirk of mine and unfortunately it works against my preference for this book. I’ve told you – I’m terrible at being a girl some days.
– The Walking Dead (comics) – Okay, I haven’t seen the show (due to my cable package, not any personal distaste), but I absolutely love this series. I’m not too far yet, but I like how the focus is on the survivors and not just zombie killing. This tends to be my preference – to see how people cope with large-scale situations like this, and this series is chock full of it. The art is gritty and well-done, the pacing is perfect, and the volumes I’ve read end on such emotional notes that you can’t help but want to crawl up a wall. Definitely recommend it, even if you are a fan of the TV series.