4 out of 4 stars
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Gather together, dear friends, as we delve into the spooky tale of one man’s journey into the unknown. Together, let us face death as I tell you the story of Dave Robertson and his quest to produce The Ultimate Guide to Zombies.
I’m being facetious, of course. It’s not a story and it’s certainly not a quest, but it is a basic primer into all things dead, rotting and moving. Within these pages, Robertson sees fit to tell us the origin and history of the zombie, ranging from its beginnings in voodoo superstition to the current heyday of necrotic cinema.
“Now, Nisha,” you might say, “that doesn’t really tell us much about the book.”
To this, I can only reply that it does. You get what it says on the tin and oh boy, do you get it. Robertson is a self-professed zombie fan, though I would rather call him a zombie stan, am I right?
(Please note that the writer is not responsible for the facepalms that may occur upon reading the previous joke.)
On a more serious note, the author presents not just a basic history that one can look up in this age of Google, but also contextualises each historic, cinematic, musical and gaming reference for a clearer picture of the zombie’s place in each field. As I read, I found it quite informative as he didn’t just highlight the most popular films or those deemed to be the best, but also those that are seminal to the field in terms of both establishing pop culture lore and the effects of makeup and video-effects on the zombie’s image. He also includes games and music as each represents a type of art that is also rife with images of the dead and walking.
In addition to this, Robertson also ventures outside of the artistic to look at other ways in which zombies have affected the world. It’s something that surprised me as I had not realised the breadth and scope of that effect, from the Center for Disease Control’s use of zombie imagery and genre tropes to raise awareness for disaster preparedness to the various events and companies that are specifically zombie focused.
In fact, a moment that struck me was the inclusion of zombie weddings as an entire section of its own. I had no idea that cemeteries and mausoleums were available as an option for the event’s venue. It almost makes me want to suggest it to my sister instead of a traditional church wedding. It seems fun.
However, despite these features and the magic of Robertson’s humour, the book struggles to rise from the grave to become a definitive study. It reads more like a fan’s manifesto about why zombies are cool and why we, as consumers, should care about them than something academic. No doubt, this was done on purpose. Yet, when that pivotal swing from a mere observation of history to something more hobbyist occurs with the first insertion of the author’s opinion on why zombies are better than other mythical creatures, it detracts from the book’s raison d'être.
As such, it became increasingly difficult not to roll my eyes or write my own screed on why vampires are the best as the book goes on. In fact, I did roll my eyes when the author criticised the CDC’s plan for dealing with a zombie epidemic because it seemed to suggest that he knew better than the authorities on such matters. It was tongue in cheek, of course, but this is an example of the few moments where Robertson’s humour tended to fall flat.
With that said, I’m still willing to give this book 4 out of 4 stars. Not only is it well edited with only a single error, but it’s also informative, mostly funny and structured in such a way that it’s easy to follow. While the author’s love of zombies didn’t mix well with my love of vampires at some points, I still had a rollicking good time reading this, and I recommend it to anyone who loves pop culture, the undead or both.
The Ultimate Guide to Zombies
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