10 Great Zombie Books: A Book List for the Apocalypse
These days, just about everyone seems to have written a zombie novel. In fact, even I have. (For the sake of impartiality, I won't be including my own zombie books in this list, but I'm not above mentioning that I have written a few novellas which are commercially available. Ahem.)
Searching for "zombie" in the books section of Amazon will return 16,067 results. You will never see more than a fraction of the available titles.
At any rate, the point is, the market is saturated. Mind you, the prominence of the living dead in our culture is not without its perks. After all, under current conditions, should a zombie apocalypse actually break out, we can all rest easy in the knowledge that the zombies won't stand a chance. Our current populace, well-educated in zombie lore and the protocols necessary for surviving an apocalypse, would undoubtedly be able to meet such a threat head-on and thoroughly trounce the poor dead sods.
Nom, Nom, Nom... More Brains...
If you think of books as food, and book genres as forms of cuisine, the current glut of zombie fiction is akin to having a waiter present you with a menu the size of a phone book that lists almost infinite dishes. Most of these dishes may sound good, but there are just too many options. Even though you may be hungry, deciding what to order can be overwhelming. Not all of the menu choices will turn out to even be palatable, but how will you know which ones to choose? With the following reading list, you should be able to order yourself an enjoyable zombie-flavored meal.
Try the Hors D'oeuvres—Flavorful, but Not Filling
We'll start with hors d'oeuvres—light but enjoyable zombie fare. Although not substantial, these tasty morsels burst with a fleeting, momentary pop of flavor.
10. Rot & Ruin, the first book in the Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry, introduces Benny Imura, a teenager living in a post-apocalyptic survivor camp. When he turns fifteen, Benny becomes an apprentice zombie hunter with his brother. He doesn't expect to like the job, but he discovers that the work has a lot to teach him about himself.
9. The White Trash Zombie series by Diana Rowland is not traditional in its depiction of the walking dead. Angel is a troubled young woman who awakens in the hospital one day to discover that she has acquired an unusual medical condition. She is a zombie, and must eat human brains in order to prevent herself from rotting and losing her cognitive faculties. Fortunately, she procures a job at the coroner's office, giving her access to brains. Zombiedom (zombiehood?) also bestows certain benefits upon Angel, such as superhuman strength and accelerated healing.
There are three books in the White Trash Zombie series. Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, the second book in the series, is probably the best. For continuity, however, go ahead and read all three. Though certainly not profound, they are fun reading.
An Appetizer, Perhaps? Greasy and Calorie Dense, but Tasty...
8. The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, is the first book of The Governor Trilogy, which fleshes out the backstory of the governor character from The Walking Dead comic books, explaining what shaped him into the monsterous man he became.
The first two books of this series are not perfect, but they are visceral enough to satisfy. These appetizers have enough fat and gristle to be messy; think of them as nachos, or an onion mum served with a heavy sauce. You might not feel good about indulging, but you will still enjoy them.
The third book of the series is slated for release in October of 2013.
Bread Sticks: Great with Dipping Sauce
7. I, Zombie by Hugh Howie is a stark, philosophical approach to the genre. Instead of one coherent story, the book is instead comprised of a series of dark, desolate, and gory vignettes following different zombies from their own perspectives.
There is no hope for these protagonists, no resolution that will end their suffering. It is simply a documentation of their hopeless existences.
Although it might be a bit much to try to consume this whole novel in one go, it's worth reading a few chapters here and there. Nibble a bit at a time.
The Soup Course: Slurp!
6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (author of Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter as well as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters), is an expanded version of the original. Slurp up the delightful absurdity of this merging of two disparate genres!
If you have tried to read Pride and Prejudice but found it boring, the addition of zombies should really spice it up for you. For me, It was exactly what the story needed. It's amazing how much a bit of blood, death, and cannibalism can do to modernize a dusty old classic. However, if you enjoyed the original on its own, this might not be the book for you...
I'm guessing that this kind of meshing of genres is possible with any work in the public domain. Perhaps we can look forward to more new classics such as The Three Rotting Musketeers or Tarzan of the Dead in the near future.
Rabbit Food? Try a Salad
There are two salads on the menu today.
5. Allison Hewitt is Trapped: A Zombie Novel, the first of Madeleine Roux's Zombie series. Allison Hewitt, a young woman trapped with a few other survivors in a bookstore, documents her struggle for survival through blog posts.
Think of this novel as a house salad. It's a standard, leafy green zombie tale of survival; nothing particularly unconventional is to be found in its pages. However, it is well executed. While not exotic in its ingredients, sometimes you just want a nice, straightforward zombie story. And Madeleine Roux delivers that.
4. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion is a heartwarming zombie story. No, really. R is a zombie with no memory of his former life. He wanders aimlessly and eats people. But then he meets someone -- Julie, a girl he would rather protect than devour. And something strange begins to happen to him; he seems to be slowly becoming more human.
Warm Bodies seems to have almost instantaneously been picked up and converted into a movie as an off-beat teenage love story. But the book is not so simple; it is well written and thought provoking. If it were a salad, it would be a goat cheese and walnut spinach salad with a sweet raspberry vinegrette. It's light, a bit sweet, but still savory. Have I taken this metaphor too far yet?
Entrees: Meals with Substance
Now we come to the real substance of our meal. There are three entrée choices.
3. Aftereffects: Zombie Therapy, by Zane Bradey, is set after the zombie outbreak has been quelled; zombies have been cured with drugs and now receive therapy in order to cope with what they have done. Psychiatrist Dr. Victor Frenzel treats these clients. However, he secretly harbors an intense hatred for them and is searching for the one that ate his wife.
This book is like a huge portion of liver and onions. It is almost overpoweringly gory and cynical, but it is definitely visceral and filling.
2. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, though technically a vampire story, perfectly captures a post-apocalyptic sense of isolation and dread. In fact, this psychological horror novel, written in 1954, served as inspiration for George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead and was instrumental in the development of the entire zombie genre.
A terrible plague has decimated the world, and those who survive have all become blood-sucking creatures except for Robert Neville, our narrator. Immune to this disease, he is the lone outsider and must be destroyed because he is different from everyone else.
This entrée is a staple dish -- the steak and potato of post-apocalyptic fiction.
1. Handling the Undead, by John Lindqvist, is not a traditional zombie story. In Stockholm, the recently deceased begin to wake up and wander back to their homes. These "reliving" are mute and seem to be in a daze, but they do not appear to be violent. The government responds to this development by rounding up the living dead to prevent public panic and creates institutional facilities to house them.
Some people are horrified, but others are overjoyed to see their loved ones again, even in states of decomposition. And that's where the heart of this novel exists -- in examining human relationships and the psychology of loss. There is a lot to think about here, and Lindqvist delivers it artfully. This is an entrée that possesses delicate flavor, subtlety, and finesse -- perhaps something baked en papillote.
Still hungry? Go ahead, indulge.
We conclude our meal with a sampler of decadent desserts.
50 Shades of Decay from Angelic Knight Press is a collection of 51 stories of zombie erotica that range from fairly tame and oddly romantic to extremely graphic and deeply disturbing. When zombie stories start to lose their shock value, this is the final frontier.
You Know You Shouldn't, but the Temptation is Too Great...
May I Have Some More?
© 2013 Alisha Adkins