The Reading (and Watching) Dead

If you are a fan of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” you know that the big mid-season finale has come and gone and now we have to wait until February 2014 to get our zombie fix.  That is a long time to be zombie-less, but as my co-worker Karen said, “You cannot have zombies for the holidays!”  And so I thought too, but February is a long way off and I cannot stay brain-dead that long so how about a few zombie books and films to tide us over till the return of The Walking Dead?

Patient Zero by John Maberry is a novel that appears on a number of “best zombie novel” lists.  It is the first in a series of books that feature Baltimore detective Joe Ledger.  Ledger is recruited by the U.S. Government to join the Department of Military Science and charged with stopping a terrorist group from spreading a bio toxin that causes people to die then re-animate as – wait for it – zombies, bent on attacking and infecting more people. Maberry is also a writer for comic books so you know there will be action!

Also appearing on “best of” lists is World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, a novel presented as a series of reports and interviews commissioned by the United Nations and conducted by Brooks ten years after The Zombie War.  The war was caused by a zombie plague sweeping across the world.  This book was the basis for the Brad Pitt movie of the same name which changed the story to a more linear narrative story following U.N. employee Gerry Lane (Pitt) as he battles zombies in an effort to find out how the zombie outbreak occurred and how to stop it.


How about a novel from the zombie’s point of view?  That is what you get in Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.  Is it a post-apocalyptic tale? Yes, but it is more than that. Is it a Zombie novel? Well of course, but it is more than that. Primarily, it is a love story.  What?, you may ask, a zombie love story?  Yes, it is the tale of a zombie teen that falls for a human girl and vows to turn his life around.  First thing to do is to stop killing and eating humans, which he never really liked in the first place and might put a big crimp in his budding relationship with that human girl, especially if his teeth on nibbling on her ankles.  That lack of eating human flesh has made him the butt of the other zombies’ jokes.  Poor zombie, an outcast in both worlds, but nothing a little love cannot set right, right? Marion self-published this novel first over the internet while employed in a number of temporary jobs. This also became an off-beat hit film of the same name which the library owns.
For a more literary treatment, try Colson Whitehead’s Zone One.  Whitehead is a critic’s favorite and his novels have been finalists for Pulitzer, National Book, and PEN/Faulkner awards.  Zone One had favorable reviews from the major book review media and was a finalist for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award, an award given to African American authors and named after Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright.  But do not let all that literary hub-bub scare you away from a good ole zombie story!  The story takes place years after a zombie apocalypse when humanity is trying to rebuild civilization.  The main character of the novel is Mark Spitz, no not the Olympic swimmer, who is part of a 3-person team cleaning up (meaning eliminating leftover zombies) zone one in what was once lower Manhattan.  It is a mundane mission of straggler elimination until something goes wrong…terribly wrong.

If you cannot get enough of the Walking Dead, you can try the graphic novels that are the inspiration for the TV series.  The library owns a ton of them.  Start with volume one and work your way through just to see how the comics and the TV show differ.  Or you can try the series of novels by Robert Kirkman, the graphic novel creator and executive producer of the TV series.  These novels tell the tale of “The Governor,” the ultimate villain of the series.  The first two novels, The Walking Dead:The Rise of the Governor and The Road to Woodbury tell the behind-the-scenes tale of how the Governor became the Governor or, in other words, the story of the Governor’s rise to power and his control of the town of Woodbury before his appearance in the graphic novels and TV series.  The third novel in this series of books, TheFall of the Governor Part One offers a mash-up of the storylines of both the graphic novels and the TV series and the publisher promises that “fans of The Walking Dead will see these characters in a whole new light.”  A fourth (and final?) novel is planned for March 2014 to be called The Fall of the Governor Part 2, so keep your eyes open.

Or better yet, just catch up on the TV series with the DVDs of the show that the library offers.  The Library owns Walking Dead: The Complete First Season, Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season, and Walking Dead: The Complete ThirdSeason. Fill in the gaps of any episode you might have missed, or re-watch favorite episodes to see if you can catch more layers of the story that you may have overlooked in your original viewing.

     So Karen, I guess you can have zombies for the holidays, just do not invite them over for Christmas dinner as you may find you are the main course!


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