Forget what you think you know about the contents of this masterpiece if all you know is the cinematic adaptation. Max Brooks’s followup to his excellent Zombie Survival Guide is that rare beast among all the reams of unending apocalyptica: it’s a story that’s as much about the world we live in now as it is a story of surviving hordes of the undead.
It’s a zombie novel where the insights about our world and all its cultures outnumber the flesh-hungry ghouls. It unfolds in short chapters that skip around the globe with delightful grace. There’s no main character, other than humanity itself. From the mountains of China and Russia to the shantytowns of South Africa to — yeah, buddy — the International Space Station — this book never settles down into a solipsistic American perspective. Brooks owns the title of his novel.
That so much fresh thinking could grow out of such tired ground gives me hope for humanity — and all writing in general.
Granted, the voices all end up blending together, and in a collection of alleged oral histories perhaps that’s a not-great thing. Yet as I continued reading, I was almost glad Brooks didn’t go too far with individualized voices because Brooks’s writing is clear and informative and rich in surprisingly well-imagined details.
At nearly every turn, Brooks uses encounters with the undead to speak about something else, something true about the way our various cultures operate. I’m in awe of this m’f’ing book. That anyone has been brave enough to write anything else about the living dead since this thing was published is incredible to me (though I am also grateful for some of those recent efforts, bless their rotting hearts).
I slid this one back on the shelf tonight feeling lucky to have it there.