Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review: The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks

Late last year I reviewed Max Brooks' 2006 novel World War Z, the follow-up to The Zombie Survival Guide, published in 2003. While the bulk of the Guide consists of tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse, my favorite part is the "Recorded Attacks" chapter, which illustrates that the zombie virus, solanum, has been infecting humans for thousands of years. Thanks to limited human interaction between continents and secret zombie-fighting groups like the Japanese Shield Society, the world had avoided a global pandemic (until World War Z, that is).

The Zombie Survival Guide contains just over 60 recorded events, ranging from an African outbreak in 60,000 B.C. (as recorded in cave paintings), to a case in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2002. Theses events are presented clinically, like Brooks' other publications, which actually makes them more effective.

In keeping with the current trend of releasing graphic novels as tie-ins to popular books, in 2009 Brooks published The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks, which contains illustrated adaptations of 12 of the Guide's historical events. I'm not certain how they chose which stories to include, but it seems that most of the stories in Recorded Attacks are those that the Guide presents with the most detail or that are the most "historically" relevant. However, I suspect that at least a couple were included because they were particularly gruesome in illustrated form.

The comic books I grew up on were a lot different

Recorded Attacks primarily lets the pictures do the talking. The illustrator, Ibraim Roberson, using a limited palette of black, white, and gray, ably depicts the horror and the tremendous amount of gore that we only imaged in the previous books.

What text we do get is used to set the seen or to clarify what we're seeing. It consists mostly of blurbs lifted from the Guide's Recorded Attacks chapter and thus carries the same cold, factual tone as the previous book. The contrast between the matter-of-fact text and the visceral images is extraordinarily effective.

A Word on Content
Obviously The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks is filled with images of violence; it's a graphic novel about zombie attacks, after all. The illustrations may be in black and white, but the lack of color does little to reduce their impact. Additionally, Recorded Attacks contains a few scenes of non-sexual nudity. One involves the "corpse" of a young woman that is removed from a shallow grave (she quickly attacks those who disinterred her) while another shows a partially dressed woman chained up in the hold of a slave ship along with dozens of other slaves.

I would strongly recommend this book to zombie fans, particularly those who enjoy the horrifying ghoul-plagued universe that Max Brooks has created. And it should go without saying that I can only recommend it to mature adults who are not easily offended.


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