3 out of 4 stars
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Have you ever wondered about the folk tales, the science, the music, the gore, the movies, the TV, the parades, the nuptials, the tropical drinks, and the blunt and chopping weapons that can all be traced back to the deceivingly simple word ‘zombie’? Well then, allow me to introduce you to The Ultimate Guide to Zombies by Dave Robertson. At once both an encyclopedic exploration and a love letter to the genre by a clearly passionate aficionado, The Ultimate Guide to Zombies traces zombies from their origins in early Voodoo terror and superstition, through to the vast roots that they have cast down in pop culture and in common lives throughout the world at large.
From the outset, Robertson dives into the world of zombies with enthusiasm and authority, and it is immediately clear – and remains so throughout the book – just how much research he conducted on his subject matter. Beginning with the earliest recorded cases (and earliest definition of zombie-ism) amidst the Voodoo-laden culture of Haiti, Robertson expertly traces how zombies have travelled through history. We are led, with an engaging voice and in-depth examination, through how the term ‘zombie’ was first coined, how it was adopted by Western culture from governmental and community-wide fear into entertaining scares, and how it evolved into what we understand it to be today.
Of course, there are plenty of other reference and entertainment books out there that cover similar ground, and with similar tone; I’m sure that they have their very own section in any bookstore. What makes The Ultimate Guide to Zombies stand out a bit more however is the unique effect of the author’s unapologetically jovial and biased tone as to the absolute positive merits of zombies and zombie culture, as well as the breadth of topics covered within that culture. There is not only a vast range of information about the surprisingly expansive and international zombie movie genre, including behind-the-scenes stories on the movie makers, effects and development, but also a carefully curated collection of things inspired or directly influenced by zombies on both personal and global scales.
This book has a little bit of everything for everyone, whether serious fan or casual dabbler, and makes good use of its research to satisfy a multitude of curiosities. I ended up particularly enjoying the author’s blend of being documentary-level informative on historical facts and statistics one moment, then happily speculative on the merits of anti-zombie weaponry and strategy the next. Between the author’s enthusiasm and genuinely impressive span of knowledge, the book couldn’t help but be a fun read.
The book’s weak points lay in some structural issues. Firstly, and possibly due to troubles with the Mobi ebook conversion process, it seems that all (or at least most) of the images contained within the book don’t match up with their intended sections. For example, the poster for a cult movie about Nazi zombies was relocated from the section about the movie to instead feature within the description of a human-shaped gel form meant for anti-zombie weapons testing; the intended picture of the gel form was then featured several pages past the weapons testing passage, instead accompanying the description of the Zombie tropical drink recipe.
Secondly, there were some spots of awkwardly structured sentences and repetitive segments (such as various oft-used versions of “See? That is another reason zombies are great”) that weren’t fatal flaws at all, but did serve to distract a bit when they cropped up. Lastly, where the book began with an introduction that served well to introduce the reader to its topic and intentions, it finished rather abruptly, ending an interesting final chapter that did not feel like a finale without a separate conclusion to wind the book down as a whole. This may well just be a personal preference to have the text beginning and end feel a bit more neatly related and the book’s broad umbrella of topics to be more neatly bundled together, but it left me with a slight feeling of it being incomplete.
In all, obviously those who are not fans of zombies in the first place will not do well with The Ultimate Guide to Zombies. It is not a book designed to convert those who aren’t already interested in them and open to their merits. But for those who have either a passing interest or a passion, there are so many interesting background stories, facts, trivia and recommendations for furthering their interests, educating themselves, and taking part in a thriving and vivacious zombie-appreciating culture that they can absolutely find plenty to enjoy here.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars; it lost a star for the structural issues I mentioned above, but overall, it was both entertaining and educational, and certainly worth the read.
The Ultimate Guide to Zombies
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