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Zombie Survival Guide
Zombie Survival Guide

by Max Brooks, Zombie Survival Guide

[Updated to remove reference to my no longer used Star Rating system.]

OK, I am loathe to criticize anyone who survived The War. If the zombies didn't get you, then there were plenty of healthy humans who would have gladly done you in. Idiots were quickly weeded out.

And I know I'm going to take some heat for not giving the book two thumbs up. It truly is required reading for anyone who faces such a catastrophe. I'd've given my right nut to have a copy before SHTF. My problem is that, in general, Max Brooks comes across as a master of the obvious and he does make some, well, not mistakes, but expresses subjective opinion as objective fact.

From personal experience, his statement that apartment buildings are the best places to make a stand is just plain wrong. Sure, if you know the crisis is coming, you have time to prepare and can ensure that none within the building are infected, such locations provide a strong defense. I just never encountered such a situation. In fact, several times I nearly met my end in an apartment block.

My wife claims that my beef with Mr. Brooks is personal. It is true that I was interviewed by him during his research for World War Z and was promised that my story would make the cut because it was so interesting. Alas, it did not. I do not harbor any grudges. I would just as soon continue to live in anonymity.

I am a little miffed, though, that his advice to keep your hair short, while practical during the crisis, has remained the style of choice among women. We no longer need to fear the grasping hands of the undead. For the love of Pete, why can't these ladies grow their hair out again?

I miss that so.

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NOTE: I have ditched this process all together. See Reconsidering Reviews at the TEotWaWKI Diary for more information.

I shall be reviewing TEotWaWKI stories, both video and written word, using the following scale:

  • 5 Stars: This is a must see. I will gladly read or watch this story multiple times. There is much to learn from it.
  • 4 Stars: This was good. You should see it at least once. There was nothing glaringly wrong with it.
  • 3 Stars: It wasn't a complete waste of time, but there were a few things wrong with the story that keep it from being a hit.
  • 2 Stars: This was a bad story, even though I did see or read it all. There was too much wrong with it to be of much use or, worse, to steer you wrong in the event of an emergency.
  • 1 Star: I couldn't even finish this story. Avoid at all costs.

What am I looking for? For non-fiction works, I need to feel like the author or director speaks from experience. For works of fiction, I don't mind if the story strays from fact, but I do need to be able to suspend my disbelief. If I can see myself in the story or, even better, actively imagine myself playing out various scenarios in the world created by the story, then I have truly enjoyed the work.

I will flag spoilers and keep them below the "More..." links within my reviews. I do want to attempt to map out each within the timeline that I have set forth previously.

For more information, please consult these posts:

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I've given this some more thought and decided to revise my description of the possible end of times. This is really more of a cyclical rather than a linear process. This doesn't replace what I wrote before. Instead, that initial post described just one path out of an infinite number of possibilities.

State of the End of the World
State of the End of the World

There are two key drivers in any TEotWaWKI story: the breadth and depth of the event and society's cohesiveness.

Each event has a trigger. The malevolence of the event will spread or recede depending upon society's reaction to it and the availability of fuel to keep it burning. Can this be kept under wraps so that the general population is unaware of what's happening? Will the old society be forever destroyed? Humanity's extinction may not be out of the question.

This can play out in any number of ways, as we will see in the stories I review.

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Every end of the world the world story follows the same general trajectory:

  1. Life as We Knew It: You remember, the rat race in which you fell ever further behind, but the worst that could happen was only that you'd lose your house.
  2. Trigger: Something occurs that, if left unchecked, will end Life as We Know It. Could be the president pushing the button, the first infection in China or even an assassin's bullet in a disputed region of the Habsburg Empire.
  3. The Growing Crisis: Things could return to normal if people just got their act together. Usually, though, they don't realize the magnitude of the situation or hold some now meaningless fear that leads them to think they can or must solve the problem themselves.
  4. Point of No Return: It is now no longer possible to return to Life as We Knew It. Just how big a transformation the world is in for remains to be seen.
  5. The Shit Hits the Fan: Regardless of how The Growing Crisis played out, the world now knows, and is experiencing first hand, the catastrophe.
  6. Climax: Like many milestones in life, this one will probably pass without anyone realizing it. All fuel the catastrophe can touch is now burning.
  7. Survival of the Fittest: You are no longer living minute to minute, you are able to take a breath and look into the future. You will now see, perhaps, that your viability may preclude others. Do you have what it takes to continue?
  8. Beginning of the End: People stop acting as individuals or smalls groups and begin to think in longer time periods.
  9. The Dust Settles:  Even though some semblance of normality is returning to life, you still must be careful. A single lapse in judgement could cost you your life.
  10. Return to a New Normal: The catastrophe is over or is least in remission (perhaps to reappear as a second trigger).
  11. Life as We Now Know It: Could be better, could be worse than before. Get used to it.
Time Line for the End of the World
Time Line for the End of the World

Not every story follows the full trajectory. Some may take place wholly within a single era. Others may short circuit the process by resolving the crisis before the point of no return.

Remember, the future isn't written in stone. Never give up!

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During the war, a popular hobby during down times was to discuss in great detail what people were missing from pre-SHTF days. This usually involved good food, friends or family. I made it a point to avoid such folks. Why long for something you cannot have? Life was frustrating enough.

This doesn't happen so much today, now that life has returned to some semblance of normality. Heck, I saw my first post-SHTF bottle of Bordeaux up at Pete's.

There are a number of things from pre-SHTF days that I do NOT miss:

  1. Debt: The purchase of a good or service for delivery today at a greatly inflated price to be paid later. This just doesn't make sense to do these days. Nobody is far removed from work that puts (or keeps) a shirt on your back, food on your table or a roof over your head. If you need something you cannot do yourself, you work out a trade. You pay now.
  2. Traffic: Yet another benefit of a greatly reduced population and the fact the people work at or very near home. Perhaps this will change with future generations, and I know I'm not alone in this, but memories of being at work when SHTF occurred and being unable to help my family has left me paranoid: I do not wish to be in that situation again.
  3. Convenience: Just another word for paying an inflated price to get something now. When you spend all of your time working to pay off your debts or sitting in a car going to or from doing so, you have no time to do things right. So you generate more debt in order to eat now.

The Chinese say that it's a truly ill wind that blows everyone evil. While I am still in shock over the horror we endured during the war, things today aren't all that bad.

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Bill Drinkmore
Bill Drinkmore

My name is Zacharias William Drinkmore. Before the shit hit the fan (SHTF), my friends called me Zach. However, that became a dangerous name, one that nearly cost my life on several occasions when someone greeted me with, "Hey, there's Zach!" I'm not sentimental for the old days, so I quickly took to being called Bill. Some still call me Colonel since I mustered out of 3rd Virginia Volunteer Armored Cavalry as a Lt. Colonel, but they tend to be former comrades.

It's been long enough since the war that there are teenagers for whom this is the only life they know. My step daughter, who was born less than a year before the dead rose, asked me a question (I don't even remember what it was) that made it clear that she has no concept of the old ways. I'm not convinced that is a bad thing, but I feel compelled to document what I know so that others will remember.

I'll review books and movies — both fiction and non, current and pre-SHTF — that purport to offer tips and tricks for survival in this new world. I'll also provide some of my own as well as observations about how things are different (or the same) now as compared to pre-SHTF life.