Hopefully we can all agree that while vampires are very lame, zombies are hot hot hot! Who wants the alabaster skin and ruby-red lips of some skinny undead weenie when you could have a horde of decomposing suitors shuffling towards you, moaning for your body?
I’m not sure how this has happened–it might be the popularity of the Resident Evil video games and movies–but in the last few years some increasingly high-profile books about zombies have popped up.
World War Z by Max Brooks
It is the not-distant future: it usually is in these types of books. There has been a terrible outbreak of a virus that turns people into zombies. This is old news and the core of most books about zombies.
But World War Z has an interesting approach. The story is not told by one narrator, but many different people giving their oral histories of the war.
Think VH1 talking head-type specials but instead of discussing how cool they used to be, the talking heads are recounting their stories of the war. Participants include a blind samurai, various military personnel, and lots of man off the street interviews.
The other thing I enjoyed was that Z also deals with the aftermath of the war. Once things are subdued, you get to read about the cleanup efforts. The story about divers having to go to the ocean floor to take care of the corpses still wandering around down in the dark was my favorite part of the book.
Brooks tells everything with a determinedly straight face. He is also the author of the less-great and less-serious Zombie Survival Guide.
The Forest Of Hands And Teeth by Carrie Ryan
A grim fable for young adults with religious overtones and lots of dark forests. There is a small village run by a scary Sisterhood of religious ladies. The village is surrounded by a fence. Outside the fence are the zombies, called dramatically, “The Unconsecrated.”
It got old to me, seeing that word in every paragraph, but the book isn’t bad.
As is often the case with young adult novels, our protagonist is a sassy teenage girl who dreams of life outside her little world: in this case, outside the fence.
She loses her mother in the opening of the book, then is forced to join the nunnery. Zombies eventually overrun the village–don’t they always?–and she flees into the forest with some compadres who prove either valiant heroes or lame losers along the way.
The Forest Of Hands And Teeth started strong for me then petered out. I’m not sure why, but I was ready for the book to end. It was fun but a little longish. One reason is that very few good things happen in this book. I don’t need everything to be sunny to enjoy a book, but this is unusually grim for a young adult book not authored by Robert Cormier, rest his bleak, brilliant soul.
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now With Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
This book is so awesome I’m not even going to review it. A guest blogger is going to do that for me on Thursday. So I’ll just give you the barest sketches. This is the complete text of the exhausting Pride And Prejudice. On each page, just a couple of words or sentences are changed–changed enough to turn it into a story about a zombie plague. You’ll definitely want to catch the full review on Thursday.
It’s not quite as momentous as the Harlem Renaissance or the Big Deal Renaissance of the Enlightenement. But surprisingly, I could go on and on because the zombie books just keep turning up. They’ll never be considered “serious” literature, but they sure are fun for me. And most serious literature doesn’t get read anymore.
Let’s vote in the comments section: which literary classic most needs the zombie treatment? I’m voting for The Great Gatsby.
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