Got zombies on the brain? Well, it’s better than having them eat your brain, so that’s a plus.
Zombies are a hot pop-cultural property these days. Woody Harrelson’s buddy movie Zombieland has been eating up theaters. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies brought Jane Austen back from the dead to become one of the year’s publishing phenoms. Marvel Comics is now on their umpteeth iteration of a Marvel Zombies franchise that, pardon the pun, doesn’t want to die.
While zombies don’t have the long literary tradition of, say, vampires, there’s been plenty of recent zombie-lit out there to feed your brain. Here are a few recent favorites:
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith—This really is Pride & Prejudice with random zombie mayhem inserted into the text, although the zombie stuff is more background noise than anything else. The story will be going along just like normal, someone will encounter a zombie and slay it in a demonstration of impressive fighting skills, and then the story will continue along as though nothing happened. There are lots of ninja references, too, because of course ninjas and zombies are like peas in a pod. If you go into it knowing the book’s a lark, you’ll do fine, although the joke does get old about two-thirds of the way through the book (or perhaps sooner).
Zombie Notes: A Study Guide to the Best in Undead Literary Classics by Laurie Rozakis—If Undead Lit is your thing, then this study guide is a must. “[M]any details about classic literature get hazy with the passage of time,” Rozakis explains. Her book looks at “the effect of the undead on great books,” such as A Zombie Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Moby-Dick, Zombie Whale by Herman Melville, and A Tale of Two Cities Overrun with Zombies by Charles Dickens. Yeah, the premise is an obvious rip-off of P&P&Z, but like zombies themselves, some ideas just never stay dead.
The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks, illustrated by Ibraim Roberson— The book’s teaser says it all, really: “They’re coming & they’re hungry.” A follow-up to Brooks’ seminal and deadpan-funny Zombie Survival Guide, this book puts the “graphic” in graphic novel. Ostensibly a book that recounts major zombie outbreaks through history, this book is really just an excuse for gruesome zombie carnage. Think axes, skulls, brains, and intestines in meticulously detailed black and white. (As a side note, Brooks’ novel World War Z is brilliant modern classic that recounts the world’s fall during a zombie apocalypse.)
Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry—“When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world,” says Maberry’s hard-knuckle hero. “And there’s nothing wrong with my skills.” So what’s wrong with the world? How about zombies as weapons of mass destruction? Maberry tries to do a little too much by tackling an ambitious premise and establishing characters for what he obviously hopes will be a new series. (“A” Joe Ledger novel? C’mon, it’s “the only” Joe Ledge novel!”) Still, it’s a thriller of the first order. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger’s strike team from Predator combined with Dirty Harry’s attitude, sprinkled with new, gritty James Bond sensibility. With zombies.
PLUS: Don’t forget about Zombie Haiku!