Because really, what else would Z stand for?
Zombies have been around for awhile, but it’s really only been in the past 10 years that they’ve taken hold of the collective cultural consciousness, thanks in no small part to The Zombie Survival Guide. Suddenly, everybody’s talking about how they would survive the zombie apocalypse.
This zombie renaissance has kicked off a whole spate of books, movies, television shows, and video games. You can’t throw a rock without hitting something zombie-related in our media.
My original intent was to discuss the history of zombies and literature/media, but as I started, I quickly realized I had bitten off way more than I could chew. (Even though Frankenstein is not a zombie story, it is about reanimated life, which tells you humans have had a fascination with this particular concept for awhile.)
So instead, I’m going to talk briefly about some of my favorite zombie-related stories.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
Max Brooks is also the author of the aforementioned Zombie Survival Guide. With World War Z, he gives us exactly what it says on the tin: a series of interviews with various people 10 years after an apocalypse-level zombie outbreak. It’s a fascinating story, like you’re reading interview transcripts shuffled into a general chronological order.
The book crisscrosses all over the world, interviewing people of all ages and races and backgrounds. Some had major roles to play in how the zombie plague got out; others were just normal people trying to survive. The whole thing comes together to paint a vivid and unsettling (yet hopeful) picture, to the point that it crawled under my skin and I wasn’t able to forget it for days afterward.
I still haven’t been able to reread it, though I do think I’d like to.
The Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook
This is actually a steampunk romance series (and it’s great), but one of my favorite parts of the worldbuilding was how zombies played into the story.
In this series, most of the world was taken over by the Horde, who accomplished this with tiny machines, colloquially called “bugs.” Said bugs got into a person’s bloodstream and allowed the Horde to use their radio towers to control them. Typically, the bugs weren’t seriously harmful (and in fact, kept people healthy and healed them), but if they got infected and the person died, then the infected bugs would get the body back up and running. Ergo, zombies.
They, so far, haven’t been a huge part of the books, but I liked learning how they’d come into existence and how people dealt with the fact that they were still around. I liked how Brook (apparently) gave serious thought to how something like that would affect not just a single country, but the world.
Brook’s certainly not the only steampunk author to use zombies in her stories; both Lilith Saintcrow (The Damnation Affair) and Cherie Priest (Boneshaker) have them showing up as well. If the idea of zombies and alternate histories appeals to you, I encourage you to read these authors.
Shaun of the Dead
I know, I know: Most of what we discuss here are books, but I would be remiss if I talked about zombies without talking about what is, hands-down, my favorite zombie movie. It sounds strange at first—a romantic comedy in the midst of a zombie apocalypse—but turns out to be funny and heartbreaking and wonderful, and it actually has a happy ending!
I think what I love the most about Shaun of the Dead is that it’s so easy to let zombie movies get dark, considering the circumstances, but it never falls into that trap. Yes, bad things happen. Yes, characters you like die, and there are terribly sad moments. Despite all that, Shaun of the Dead manages to stay fun and light and very definitely a comedy.
What are some of your favorite zombie-related stories? Books, TV shows, video games, movies, comics… let us know in the comments!
(Once again, all links are Amazon links. Once again, they’re not affiliate links.)