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Age of Sigmar: Soulbound – Role-playing Game Review

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The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead by Max Brooks

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead by Max Brooks
Book Name: The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead
Author: Max Brooks
Publisher(s): Three Rivers Press
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Horror / Zombies
Release Date: September 16, 2003

Here in week three of Month of the Living Dead, we come now to a piece of the zombie library that probably should have been addressed at the beginning of the month, but I favored book-ending over preparation in this case. Yeah, that’s what kills every zombie victim, isn’t it? Lack of preparation and ignorance in the rotting face of our relentless enemy is something that has spelled the doom of countless lives that could have been spared if they only had the right materials on hand. Survival is all about having the right tools, the proper plans, and above all a practical knowledge of the incoming threat. And that’s where Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead comes in.

The Zombie Survival Guide is, as the title would suggest, a guide to survive situations when the dead would rise and attack the living. The first part of the book provides details of the enemy: from the virus that gives a corpse life, to its method of transmission and the basic characteristics and physical and psychological attributes of a zombie. From here, the guide goes on to explain the different levels of a zombie attack, from the minor Class One that would involve a small isolated incident, to the end-of-the-world scenario that is a Class Four. An in depth section on weapons details the strengths and weaknesses of every style of armament and personal defense one could hope to use in combating the living dead: from conventional weapons like swords, assault rifles, and machine guns, to movie staples like chainsaws and unconventional methods like acid, germ warfare, and psychological warfare, as well as what is best to wear when doing battle.

Some of the most important and detailed sections are devoted to how to survive an encounter with zombies: defense, attack, and being on the move. In the defensive section, the author explores how to make one’s home, no matter the type, a safe and secure fortress, as well as the pros and cons of using other locations like churches, shopping malls, police stations and warehouses. No place can ever be perfectly safe for too long, and so in the middle is the natural progression: being on the run. Vehicles, groups, and the proper time to move are all explained here, as well as the various types of terrain and how they can be benefits and hazards to both the survivors and zombies. Finally, in the attack section, Mr. Brooks explains some of the more common and tactically sound strategies for taking the fight to the enemy and take back what is ours. He also provides examples of tactics that have not only failed, but even resulted in the deaths of the fools who employed them.

The penultimate chapter provides the possibility of living in the worst of conditions: a Class Four zombie infestation. Here, the virus has gone global and nothing has stopped it. Most if not all governments and organized resistance has vanished into the stomachs of the undead, almost every urban setting and bit of civilization has been overrun, and only small pockets of humanity eke out meager existences as they struggle to rebuild and survive to see the next day. Raiders, nature and zombies are all common threats, and the stability of a group relies on the loyalty of its members and charisma and skill of its leader. Humans are living on borrowed time, but there is always the chance of survival. And where there is hope, there is the chance to go on.

The final section is a collection of documented cases of zombie attacks throughout history, starting in the Neolithic Period and continuing on into the modern era. From triumphant victories against the undead to dismal failures and cover-ups, major events in the history of man give testament to how we can succeed, or how we can fail against our most relentless adversary.

It could be argued over how much of the detail in this work comes from hard research, and how much comes from speculation. Gun fanatics may argue how Max Brooks praises certain weapons but vilifies others. A friend of mine who is familiar with firearms has shown me several arguments that contradict some of what is stated (mostly in the case of the .22 rimfire round), but in the end this is a work of fiction and was written as such, not as a truly practical guide to surviving zombies. The sole purpose of The Zombie Survival Guide is to entertain, and entertaining it is indeed. Whereas most stories focus on a single character or group of characters dealing with a sudden threat in their world, The Zombie Survival Guide is pure worldbuilding, establishing a setting where mankind has been living with the threat of eternal death since it was able to crawl out of the primordial muck and stand erect.

Writers with a fascination of zombies may find it to be a valuable resource, as would Game Masters who are looking to create a totally original roleplay for their table-top group. Even the “documented attacks” in the back provide inspiration for possible set-ups.

As entertaining as the book is, the serious tone may put some people off, as they might think the writer is being serious in his dissertation on zombies. However, if you can take this book as a work of pure worldbuilding fiction (and good setup for World War Z), then it would be an excellent addition to your zombie collection.

And so our month-long siege is over the halfway point, but the dead are still knocking on the defenses. Come back next week when we revisit a family living in a Class Four scenario.



  1. Avatar Overlord says:

    Great review Chris – believe it or not I am still to read World War Z! 🙂

  2. Avatar nilling says:

    Now The Walking Dead, Season 2 has started I must get around to reading this book 🙂 cannot believe neither of you have read World War Z 😉

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