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From the Smithsonian: The Scariest Zombies in Nature

It's unclear whether or not this is related to Solanum; however, at the moment, we are not in danger. This fungus, while 100% fatal once it has infested an organism, does not appear to cause its victim to get violent. Also, for the moment, it does not affect humans.

We'll keep an eye on this, though.

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Cell by Stephen King
Cell by Stephen King

Stephen King is the go to guy when you want a great TEotWaWKI story. I have reviewed The Mist and I need to so for The Stand, which I haven't read that since pre-SHTF days. That is the granddaddy of all end-of-the-world stories. I figured his novel Cell wouldn't disappoint.

I was wrong. I don't want to say this book is bad. I really respect Mr. King. This is also his first book after his horrific car accident. It is still infinitely better than anything I could write. Let's just say that it's not his best book, but it has it's moments.

The opening grabs you right away. You barely have time to absorb the ordinary world before he brings it crashing down via cells phones that corrupt callers' brains, driving them into homicidal rages. This is Stephen King at his best:

  • Pass the test of immediate survival, but just barely.
  • Assemble a small group and seek shelter.
  • Figure out what the fuck to do now.

I'm lapping this up as it's classic TEotWaWKI story-telling, but then we hit some speed bumps. The writing's not that good. It feels rushed, lacking an editor's touch. I may be unusual in this way, but these kind of mistakes begin to affect my ability to suspend disbelief. Some of the story flaws begin to nibble at me:

  • Driving is a task that can rarely be accomplished because the roads are all clogged. I'm not buying this. Sure, there will be clots of vehicles, and you may have to drive off to the side, but I cannot imagine it would severely restrict you to the level represented in the book. At least that wasn't my personal experience during the outbreak.
  • The "zombies" behaved weirdly. I can't go into detail on this since it would involve serious spoilers, but this ultimately killed it for me.

I'm not saying there aren't worthwhile lessons. He was correct to point out that obtaining one or more fire arms is a top priority. Also, group cohesion is extremely important. There are times when you'll need to subordinate your desires for the good of the group. Truly, though, you're better off reading some of his other works. My apologies, Mr. King.

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Man shot cop because he thought he was a zombie

The facts are not all in, yet, so let's withhold judgement. Let me just say that, a decade after the end of the Zombie Wars, more people are killed when mistaken as undead than at the hands of actual zombies. Listen, folks, you don't have to kill the thing right away. Unless someone is in immediate danger of a bite, evacuate, isolate and call the authorities.

Don't be stupid.

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The Amerian Plague by Molly Caldwell Crosby
The Amerian Plague by Molly Caldwell Crosby

by Molly Caldwell Crosby

When most people think of the end of the world, images of the recent zombie wars flood the mind. Understandably so since we lost nearly 90% of the world's population. What people seem to forget, though, is that TEotWaWKI is a regular, albeit infrequent occurrence, from world-wide cataclysms to local events. The American Plague is a good example of the latter end of this spectrum as it delves into the Yellow Fever epidemic that swept through Memphis in 1878.

Consider the following from page 64*:

A number of nurses, doctors, ministers or nuns later wrote of the fear that accompanied them the first time they entered an infected home. They had nursed hundreds from the halls of sick wards, but it was something else all together to climb the steps of a porch and open a door with a yellow card swinging from a nail. The first thing to strike was the smell. It floated in the streets, a scent like rotting hay. The smell grew stronger and overpowering once the front door was opened, where it mingled with the soiled sheets, sweat and vomit. Inside, one never knew what to expect. Moans, cries, delirious screams, or worse, no sound at all. There was darkness, as windows were boarded shut, and there was the stagnant heat of imprisoned air. Then, as their eyes focused, they saw the bodies. At first, it was hard to tell which ones were living and where were not. If deceased, one could never know how long they had been that way or in what condition they would be.

Sound familiar? It gave me the chills. (Is that a headache I feel?) The similarities don't end there:

  • Effective quarantine procedures had been in place, but they were rescinded several years before because it would, as the author wrote on page 48, "create panic, stifling river traffic and delaying cotton shipments." Money always wins out over safety.
  • There were gangs roving through the city, robbing the homes of the defenseless infected.
  • Many did not die as a direct result of the disease, but rather of other causes exacerbated by the outbreak such as starvation and dehydration.

This happened before the dead rose and it will happen again. Be prepared!

* This and other quotes are from the September 2007 Berkley trade paperback edition of the book which is available from Amazon.com.

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"Zombies" crash on I-84 near Lloyd exit

I realize I'm an old fart, I just don't see why anyone would want to look like a zombie. They're lucky that someone didn't unload on them at the time. Must be a sign that the Zombie Wars are firmly in our past.

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The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler
The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler

by James Howard Kunstler

This book is a rant written by a very angry man in a world that had yet to experience TEotWaWKI. His rage seems to get in the way of his arguments. (Good thing he didn't know what was coming, how we handled zombies would have caused him a stroke.) Thing is, he makes some very good points, but they're buried in his rambling prose. I much preferred his World Made by Hand — a book I strongly recommend.

I previous reviewed A Canticle for Leibowitz in which the end of the world is instant and massively violent. If you survived the nuclear war, it was obvious there was no going back. Mr. Kunstler, though, posits a world where the end is gradual and not at all obvious. Remember the beginnings of the zombie outbreak? Denial was strong through the first week or so. It took actual assault by the undead for people to wake up to the new reality and, yet, even that didn't work for some. But the removal of the underpinnings of the pre-SHTF world — cheap petroleum — would have taken years if not decades to complete. The process described in The Unthinkable clearly apply here:

  1. Denial: People didn't want to believe that oil was going away. Oh, sure, it will happen eventually, but by then the free market will produce something to replace it such as hydrogen or solar power.
  2. Deliberation: Once it was accepted that the days of cheap oil were behind us, the thinking went haywire. There were wars to secure supplies, attempts to invent something in a hurry (only to realize that it, too, would need vast inputs of petroleum), and don't forget the blame. The finger was pointed at everything from ungodly behavior to communist subversion.
  3. The Decisive Moment: Well, we never got to that point. The zombies rendered it moot. As the Chinese say: It's a truly ill wind that blows everyone evil. Reducing the human population by 90% did have some benefits.

I can't exactly recommend The Long Emergency. If you have the patience, the nuggets you glean are worthwhile, but you're better off reading World Made by Hand.

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A Canticle for Leibowitz
A Canticle for Leibowitz

by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

I have to be careful how I say this or I might come across as one who enjoys the end of the world: If the world must end, the swiftness and violence of TeoTWaWKI can be a blessing. You have no choice but to accept the fact that the world as you knew it is no longer. When the destruction is so complete and return impossible, you can look to the task at hand. Such is the case in A Canticle for Leibowitz.

This masterfully written novel posits a world in which we infer a nuclear exchange wiped out civilization sometime in the mid-20th century. The story is broken up into 3 parts taking place 300, 600 and 1,200 years post-SHTF. Unlike most stories I've reviewed here, you do not see what happens during the crisis, only after stability has returned. And the fact that we're dealing in centuries should tell you the extent of the damage that occurred, that we're talking sociological far more than physical infrastructure.

Nothing had been so hateful in the sight of these mobs as the man of learning, at first because they had served the princes, but then later because they refused to join the bloodletting and tried to oppose the mobs, calling the crowds "bloodthirsty simpletons."

A common mistake for pre-SHTF planners is to assume reasoned behavior on the part of survivors, that even violent behavior would be guided by a rational sense of survival. That has consistently proven to not be the case. Beware the man who is having difficulty redrawing his mental map, especially if his is armed. You cannot appeal to his senses. You best get out of his way. Woe to the land over-run by a mob of such people.

The thon's gaze seemed to clamp calipers on the abbot's cranium and measure it six ways.

One other aspect of end of the world scenarios that this book covers well is that of scope. There is the short term: how do I survive the crisis? Then there is the long term: I have survived, now what? This book deals in the epochal, survival not just of a man, but of mankind. There are three stages to this process:

  1. Archive the Knowledge: Gather everything from the old world, wherever you may find it.
  2. Protect the Knowledge: Both from enemies who would seek to destroy it as well as time that would corrupt and erode it.

  3. Disseminate the Knowledge: When the time is right, release it back into society so that it may help humanity to grow and prosper.

I highly recommend this book. The characters are engaging and the issues raised provoke much thought after you done reading. Compared to the world the author describes, I feel we got of light. What's a horde of zombies compared to full scale nuclear war?

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Police: Woman bites man after being called fat

There's been a lot of stupidity lately in dealing with the undead. Perhaps too much time has past since the catastrophe that people have forgotten how to handle themselves.

Don't taunt a zombie! They don't get it, you look like a fool and you'll probably wind up a zed yourself. Leave it to the professionals.

Fat zombies, ugh! That brings back some unpleasant memories. They might be slower moving, but when they get a head of steam going, they can barrel through all but the strongest barriers. I had a particularly nasty encounter in a dark hall way in which the freaking thing, though finally killed, still blocked my exit. I still have nightmares about that.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

This book changed my life. I realize people think me a curmudgeon and I'll cop to that charge. I take my undead seriously and have witnessed the grisly result of those who don't. I see nothing funny about them. So it may come as a surprise to some to learn that I enjoyed this book, found it to be a worthwhile read. Let me explain.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been sitting in my To Read pile for quite sometime (I mentioned this about a year ago). The reviews made the book seem lighthearted. Not at all, the authors clearly show in serious tones what life is like in a world over-run by the living dead.

What makes this a great piece of fiction is that the zombies are not central to the story. I found myself more concerned about Mr. Darcy's boorish behavior than how best to dispatch a ghoul with a katana sword. Perhaps this is best, because what is covered leaves me wondering about the authors. One of them seems not to realize that the musket is a weapon, even in the hands of an experienced user, that can fire only 3 rounds a minute. That's a recipe for disaster. I'd stick with older technologies, like the battle ax or halberd. But then, I've never had proper training in the Asian martial arts. Maybe they provide courses in flint lock fire arms.

So, yes, read this book. Enjoy this book. And demand of other authors that they focus on the story rather than on how they can make their undead more outlandish. Oh, and don't forget, my daughter comes from a fine family, has impeccable manners and is second to none with the machete.

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Cops believe teacher ate piece of ear she bit off man

I want to urge caution here. Enough time has past since the Zombie Wars that the risen dead are quite rare. Odd behavior is not enough to indicate someone is a zombie. Play it safe, follow the standard protocol:

  1. Clear the premises.
  2. Alert the authorities.
  3. Monitor all exits.

Don't risk going to jail on a murder wrap if you can keep everyone safe without resort to violence.