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.
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.
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.
Is "Night of the Living Dead" a simple zombie film or a subtle antiwar statement? Precisely when did viral pandemic supplant nuclear radiation as the lead cause of zombification? And which sort of animated dead has the greater potential to frighten: shambler or sprinter?
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.
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.
This is a constant subject of conversation: What could I have done to improve my chances once we had an outbreak of undead? If you knew for sure that it was coming, yes:
Build a fortress
Stock it with a lifetime supply of food and ammo
Heck, build a solar array and a reverse osmosis water purification plant
Truly, though, even with 20/20 hindsight, you'd've been an idiot to do that. Taking such steps would have meant completely writing off a normal life. If the end of the world never came, you'd be broke and probably lose contact with your kids after they leave the nest, seeking a normal life.
This is not to say, however, that you couldn't prepare in a way that would still be beneficial if you never encountered a single zombie in your lifetime. This is just general good advice.
Get in shape: The ability to run long distances interspersed with quick sprints not only maintains a healthy cardio-vascular system, but also allows you to escape the hoards of undead giving you chase.
Get regular checkups: The last thing you want in any TEotWaWKI situation is to experience a health issue. Make sure you're always up to date on your vaccinations, get your teeth checked every 6 months and pay special attention to foot health. Zed would just love it if you had a bad case of plantar fascitis.
Know how to use and maintain a fire arm: First, get a lesson on how to fire a weapon. You're local gun shop or firing range should have classes. Once you're comfortable with that, buy something. Become an expert in how it works. Keep it clean.
Understand your local weather patterns: This means more than just reading the weather report everyday. You need to be able to rely on more than just your newspaper and be familiar with the whole region. Quick, tell me, when does the first frost usually happen where you live?
Be the map: I know, you're thinking, "I have no problems getting from point A to point B." I'm telling you, post-SHTF, your points A and B are going to change. Can you navigate off road? What are some terrain features that could impede your progress? What if you're half way to point B and learn you need to get your butt to point C?
Like I said, I believe this to be valuable advice whether or not the dead rise again.
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.
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:
Clear the premises.
Alert the authorities.
Monitor all exits.
Don't risk going to jail on a murder wrap if you can keep everyone safe without resort to violence.
I'll be straight up with you: I hate zombie comedies. It's not just because they're overwhelmingly stupid, but they have no redeeming value. They're usually just a vehicle for idiot frat-boys doing things to unrealistically portrayed undead. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that today's teen-age male population would be wiped out should we have another widespread outbreak given that they probably believe everything they see in those movies.
Let me be clear: Shaun of the Dead is NOT one of those movies!
Yes, it is a comedy. It is hysterical on many levels, not the least of which is the realistic portrayal of how folks typically reacted to the fact that their world is overrun with the undead. But don't let the hilarity fool you. Beneath it lies good advice and excellent examples of how to act (or not) in a catastrophe. Allow me to use the format described in The Unthinkable to describe the movie.
Denial: I'm not talking about those who were thrown into a mental shut down by their inability to cope with the concept of the walking dead, though this was a majority of the deniers and, indeed, several characters in the movie. I'm thinking of people like myself who went on blithely with their lives despite what was happening. Is my behavior any different than Shaun's? He stumbled to the store in a hungover stupor, while I boarded a plane to New York for business. Both of us could have seen the news or even the stumbling corpses in our streets, but didn't connect the dots. It's not really denial, but rather blindness on our parts. Good thing it didn't kill us.
Deliberation: It sounds so simple, let's make a plan and execute it! As the movie shows, it rarely worked out that way. What are your objectives? How best can you achieve them? It's one thing if you're acting alone (which I was in many cases), but the complexity increases geometrically with the size of your group. This is how groups fall apart AND coalesce. I liked how, in the movie, various groups kept encountering each other, exchanging information. Since the period covered in the film was just the first few days of the outbreak, people were inclined to help each other. It would have been interesting to see how the interactions would have turned out if their crisis lasted longer. They may not have been so friendly.
The Decisive Act: What this movie clearly demonstrates is that you cannot judge how someone might behave in a crisis based on their everyday, pre-SHTF behavior. Let's face it, Shaun was a loser. However, when it came to it, he stepped up. I'd've been proud to number him in my group.
I just offed my mum, don't ask me to do my friend.
There's only so much one can take. Shaun proved more able than most, but he still had his limits. That just proves he retained his humanity.
This is an entertaining movie worth watching purely for it's artistic merit. The fact that it ably demonstrates how a good group should act is just icing on the cake.