Zombies

The Buyer's Guide to Zombie Books

The zombie genre is rife with drivel, so I've started reviewing each Zombie novel I read, to help readers get the juicy stuff without wading through boring books like I did. This list will grow as I read more books.

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Verdict: Read this!

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Max Brooks

This book is a milestone in Zombie novels. It topped the New York Times best seller list not simply because of it's subject matter, but because it grabbed the attention of today's postwar culture and provided political and social commentary on a wide range of real-life events and institutions. The subject just made it that much better. World War Z is a book everyone needs to read before they die.

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Verdict: Read this!

Day by Day Armageddon

J. L. Bourne

Behind World War Z, Day-By-Day Armageddon should be the next book on your to-read list. This book is told by a former soldier in diary format, starting from pre-outbreak. I loved the sense of rising panic as the book opens up. I found myself anxious throughout the book as I tried to read faster than my eyes could go.

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Verdict: Up to you

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Max Brooks

You start reading this book for the humor of it, then realize it was written for the survivalist. I know alot of people who (and I admit to doing this to a small extent) are preparing for a zombie apocalypse. If that's the case, I must say this book will in fact help you tremendously. For example, it explains the importance of using a .22 gauge rifle instead of an assault rifle, since weight and ammunition conservation are essential, and head shots are head shots regardless of the size of the gun. Remember, this book is not a novel, and is closer to a reference manual.

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Verdict: Up to you

The Zombie Survival Guide : Recorded Attacks

Max Brooks

Another from zombie laureate Max Brooks. The premise of this book is, "Those who don't learn from zombie history are condemned to repeat it." To this end, Brooks illustrates infamous zombie attacks since the beginning of recorded history, from the legions of ancient Rome to the high seas with Francis Drake. The latest story takes place in 1992. This is a graphic novel and is meant for hardcore zombie fans. Hey, it's Max Brooks, anything he writes is going to be good for the zombie fan. Remember: this isn't funny, there's nothing new, and there's no central character.

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Verdict: Read this!

Hater

David Moody

Hater isn't technically a Zombie book the same way 28 Days Later isn't technically a Zombie movie; however they both have a very similar style and feeling of apocalyptic panic and preparation which places it in the same genre. It's very dark and has a feel of dread that increases as it moves on. It is serious instead of campy. I read the whole book in two sittings. I really want to talk about the elements of this book, but don't want to give away any spoilers. From the review, "...Things get a lot worse after incidents of random violence escalate to a condition that threatens the social fabric of the country. Those afflicted with the violent impulse are dubbed Haters."

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Verdict: Up to you

Monster Island

David Wellington

This book is fun because it has a unique plot and idea, which is hard to find in the zombie genre. Additionally, this book is easy to get into and fun to read. The word "zombie" doesn't show up, which is great, because almost without fail, a zombie book that calls them "zombies" will read like the transcript of a D-movie.

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Verdict: Nah

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

The idea is really funny: taking original chapters from Jane Austen's classic regency romance Pride & Prejudice, and inserting ultra violent zombie mayhem. But once you're past the novelty, the book doesn't really stand on its own. The Zombie attacks seemed thrown together in random places, and the character development was awkward with details thrown in after commas. That being said, I imagine this book would have been a lot more fun had I read the original Pride & Prejudice first; I found myself googling passages of the original to compare with the Grahame-Smith version. It's a fun read, but I recommend reading the original first.

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Verdict: Nah

I Am Legend

Richard Matheson

This book read quickly but expectations were too high after watching the movie, so I was let down. The book never really took off. It's written very well, but it was written half a century ago, and so much has evolved in the way pop culture treats the apocalypse, which made this once-best-seller feel a little amateurish. The story itself is pretty short, and halfway through the book I realized the author threw a bunch of short stories into the end of it, and they had nothing to do with the book. This is one case where the movie adaptation is better (protip: if you watch the movie, make sure you watch the alternate ending and pretend the theatrical ending never existed, because the alternate ending is far better, and more accurate to the book). A note: even though the creatures in the movie act like zombies, this is technically a vampire story.

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Verdict: Nah

Dead City

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Have you ever watched someone playing video games? That's what this book feels like; watching someone else play a video game. I'm sure it was fun for the author to write, but for the audience, it's just watching someone rack up zombie head shots. And that is just for the action. The actual writing is self-serving, and has no redeemable social value. This book is worse than I Am Legend

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Verdict: Read this!

Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead

Kim Paffenroth

Books like this make it apparent that the horror genre is going through a renaissance with zombie books. Dying to Live isn't a slasher story; it's an intellectually stimulating book which examines the boundaries of humanity. This book may show a new trend towards zombie books as literature, and not as a vessel for pouring blood into a reader's imagination. The only complaint of this book was the formulaic plot, and the writing is sometimes generic or self indulgent. And sometimes, the dialog felt a bit unnatural. Regardless, this book has earned itself the moniker "The thinking man's zombie book" for good reasons, and may be the bridge that leads the zombie genre to a new level.

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Verdict: Avoid

Zombie

Joyce Carol Oates

This is NOT a zombie book. Avoid. I am only including it because I know several people that made this mistake. This is a depressing social drama that has nothing to do with flesh-eating hordes or legions of undead.

In the queue to read and review next: