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Zombie Renaissance: Three Quick Book Reviews About The Undead

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

World War Z

World War Z

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

The Forest Of Hands And Teeth

The Forest Of Hands And Teeth

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

It's so fun I can't stand it.  It really is.

It's so fun I can't stand it. It really is.

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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  • Marie July 7, 2009, 11:50 am

    I really enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombie and I think I’ll take a look at World War Z. For my votes, I think the following book could use some zombies: Emma, Vanity Fair, Les Miserables, Tale of Two Cities, and the Count of Monte Cristo.

  • Vanessa Vezina July 7, 2009, 2:05 pm

    I got a swift kick out of Pride P. & Zombies, I’m buying it for all my video game addicted zombie- tween cousins who would never read the classics outside of cliffnotes. I’m dying for someone to write Troilus & Cressida & Zombies.
    WWZ was great but it was a bit harder for me to fall in love with the story. I go ahead and sterotype it as a boys book. I should probably give it another chance when I’m in the mood for a warped non fiction war history.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 7, 2009, 3:03 pm

      Oh, Troilus was the last thing I expected to see on this list. Bravo!

  • Vanessa Vezina July 7, 2009, 2:23 pm

    Vampires are NOT lame!

  • Laura July 7, 2009, 5:36 pm

    I have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies waiting on my nightstand. I’ve got about 70 pages to go on the book I’m currently reading, and then bring on the paranormal Regency hijinks!

    Speaking of which, I keep waiting for someone to write a crossover “Lost Memoir of Jane Austen” featuring the author’s adventures as a Vampyre Hunter. I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time.

  • Marie July 8, 2009, 10:43 am

    I hear that the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is writing a new book that casts Abe Lincoln as a Vampire Slayer.

  • TK July 9, 2009, 9:42 am

    Hey! Thanks so much for all the awesome words about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I’m with Quirk Books, and I wanted you to know that we’re coming out with a hardcover deluxe edition of the book in November – with 30% more zombies and full color illustrations! Find Quirk Classics on Facebook to learn more and to find out the newest title in the Quirk Classic Series on July 15! Yes, yet another literary masterpiece / monster mash-up! Fans of the page will receive a special Facebook update at 12:00 a.m. EST. If you’re not a member of Facebook, you can always check out QuirkClassics.com. Thanks, and I’m so glad you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

  • Jon July 14, 2009, 4:05 pm

    Josh, sorry to resurrect an older thread but I couldn’t resist. I’m a huge zombie fan and while I have read World War Z, I haven’t yet had the chance to read the other two books you recommend. They are definitely going on my list.

    Anyway, I wanted to ask if you have read the book “Breathers”? It’s not your traditional zombie fare, but still a pretty good read.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2009, 4:32 pm


      I actually love it when these old threads pop back up. It reminds me that things don’t vanish once they’re no longer on the home page. And bravo with the “resurrect” theme during the zombie discussion.

      I just requested Breathers at the library. I’d never heard of it, thank you. I’d love to hear what you think when you get done with WWZ. They’ve been rumoring a movie forever, but so far I haven’t heard anything concrete.

  • Ayelet August 27, 2009, 7:26 am

    I’m so glad you posted about World War Z. Whenever I mention that book (and it’s often b/c I LOVED it), people give me weird looks. I think for some reason in the realm of adult lit zombies are too sci fi to be considered good reads. So bravo for writing about it!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 7:52 am

      Ayelet, you are now in the inner circle of my dearest darlings. World War Z is the greatest. I keep hearing rumors about a movie, but don’t hear anything concrete.