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The Undead, Zombie Anthology
The Undead, Zombie Anthology

Edited by D.L. Snell & Elijah Hall

This book is a collection of short stories written before and after SHTF. While I have been unable to confirm it, some of the post-SHTF stories appear to be factual accounts. Those are the ones worth reading. David Wellington's story about the zombie giant squid in Chuy and the Fish scared the crap out of me. I've heard stories of the Solanum virus jumping species (and of course that pre-war event documented in the movie Quarantine), but this is the first confirmation that it has happened. Hopefully, it's an isolated case.

Also worth reading is Ann at Twilight. Brent Zirnheld documents the case of a blind woman's experiences during the war. While the author was unable to determine if she survived, it would not surprise me if she did.

However, most of the rest demonstrates a sad fact of pre-SHTF zombie fiction: The demand for zombie stories far outstripped the supply. It didn't take any skill to get anything published. David Moody is the classic example. His work reads like a sixth grader's social studies report.

If you don't have anything better to read, then do pick this one up. Just be selective of what you read and not too credulous. There are good lessons among the bad advice.

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Pre-SHTF, I loved the fall: the hint of sadness in the shortening days, the flame of the trees as they begin their down cycle and the good food of the season.

I just recently realized, however, that Winter is now my favorite. That recognition had an odd trigger: My daughter caught me wearing ear muffs and called me out on my proscription against wearing head phones. I had a simple answer: any zombies in the area will be frozen solid. That, however, does not also apply to the greatest threat: uninfected humans with ill intent.

While I now enjoy the winter, the first one post-SHTF was the worst time during this era. The immobilization of the undead allowed folks to let down their guard while at the same time freeing up organized groups to wreak more havoc than usual. Even if you were careful, the trampled snow around your hide out was as good as a neon sign pointing people your way.

I spent most of that winter alone. While I had opportunities to join up with others, I was emotionally burned out from my experiences during the outbreak and immediate aftermath. I didn't have the patience needed to deal with others. While I didn't realize it at the time, it also helped me survive that period.

Two attributes describe the groups of uninfected humans that coalesced during this winter:

 Nomadicvs.Stationary
OrganizedThese groups were not unlike the hunter/gatherers of pre-history. They moved to areas with resources, carefully extracting what they needed. The intent, it seemed, was to find an area to settle down before the thaw. These were the groups who had the best chance for survival. They limited membership to levels could be supported by the area's resources. They worked feverishly to fortify against the renewed war with the zombies.
Benevolent groups would be open to trade and might even tempt you to join them. Even the good folks would be touchy to deal with. They worried that you wouldn't be a valuable member of the group, that you would be a resource suck or otherwise negatively impact their ability to resist the zombie tide.
The malevolent groups of both types shared many traits of their better counterparts, but also include you on their list of desired resources, as a slave of one sort or another.
vs.
Dis-organizedThese were the most dangerous groups to deal with. They had no clue what they were doing, just living day to day. You could smell these groups from a mile way. Usually, they would end up burning through all of the area's resources and had to hit the road, looking for a new location.
It was hard to tell who were the good guys. In their desperation, they were capable of anything. Best case scenario would be that they'd jump at your suggestion that there was a cornucopia just over the next hill. These groups did not last long. They lacked the foresight to plan, but also the balls to due what it takes to survive.
These were not unlike the reavers of old: evil creatures who did not think twice about violating and killing you for joy as much as for your resources. When these groups finally moved on, nothing, and I mean nothing was left. Vegetation, structure, any sign of civilization were consumed in their effort to survive.

Since it was difficult, in many cases, to tell the good from the bad without revealing yourself, I avoided most interactions. I didn't think about the snow revealing my tracks until it was too late. Thankfully, the group that found me was small and kind hearted. I was able to help them and even guided them to a destination far enough away. From then on, I only moved during storms. This occasionally made for some very hungry times.

By the end of that winter, I, almost, was looking forward to the zombies.

Now that the war is over and civilization has returned, I quite enjoy the cold, crisp air of winter.

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 The Rising
The Rising

by Brian Keene

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

This is a piece of pre-SHTF fiction, and I am truly thankful it was fiction. My problem with the book isn't that I was unable to suspend my disbelief; rather, I didn't want to. The zombies were, in many cases, smarter than the humans they once were and, while their agility deteriorated with their flesh, they were still much greater threats than the true zombies from The War. Not only that, but all vertebrates were capable of zombification. I do not wish to downplay the threat of a real zombie, but the ones in this book freaked me out to no end. You haven't been truly afraid until you've stared a zombie anaconda in the face. That, and the nightmares of being chased by zombie rabbits, kept me up for nights. I do not know if the author has survived, but I'd guess a sick bastard who could write such a story probably would.

The book starts after the Point of No Return, though there are frequent flashbacks that reach into the world as we knew it. While we follow several characters, including an addict who shook her habit while the SHTF and a scientist who may have triggered the event, the story revolves around a man who sets out on an odyssey to rescue his son. The book ably demonstrates that no matter what threat you face, what creatures God raises to oppose you, it is the ordinary human being you should fear the most.

As for the practical advice that the book offers, most of it is geared towards a world where the threat is smarter and faster. For instance, during a crisis, I would avoid using a car because the noise attracts zombies and you can just as easily evade them on foot. In the world of The Rising, though, you cannot so easily escape them, thus making the risk worthwhile. However, the book reinforces the need to maintain your supplies of food and ammunition. Listen up!

This is worth reading. It will scare the crap out of you, provide some useful advice as long as you are discerning of the context, and provide some insight into what the pre-SHTF world thought about zombies.

There are spoilers after the jump.

...continue reading "TEotWaWKI Book Review: The Rising"

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directed by John Erick Dowdle, Quarantine, Non-Fiction

Quarantine
Quarantine

This is why it's not a good idea to hole up in an apartment building!

There is an interesting back story to this documentary. Historians who are researching the period just prior to World War Z have uncovered news footage of an outbreak that, at the time, appeared to have been quashed. I am stunned to learn that we could have faced much worse.

The lead is a reporter from a pre-SHTF TV station who was on assignment to follow a local fire company for a night. It was her crew's bad luck that their first real call was to an apartment block where a pre-cursor to Solanum had infected a human. This was a particularly virulent form of the disease as it zombified its victim faster and the zombie itself was much more agile. The recovered footage clearly shows how authorities quickly and effectively implemented a quarantine that protected the general population. The director tries valiantly to evoke sympathy for those contained inside, but it didn't work on me, given my hindsight. I would have nuked the area, just to be sure.

You must watch this movie, for it clearly shows who to trust and who to avoid. If you find yourself trapped in an outbreak, do not succumb to valiant inclinations unless they are to kill yourself in order to prevent further spread of the disease. Get a weapon, gather some supplies and find a place where you can wait out the event.

Oh, and you might want to watch this with all of the lights on. The speed of the undead will freak you out. Damn, only now has my heart slowed down.

There are spoilers after the jump.

...continue reading "TEotWaWKI Movie Review: Quarantine"

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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.