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Book Review: So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead by John Austin

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For far too long, the zombie story has been one-sided… always written from the point of view of the human victim or the hunter. Why don’t we ever hear about zombie-related news from a zombie? Well, never fear. All of that is about to change…

Author John Austin has pulled together a handbook to help new zombies adjust to their new position in life (or “unlife”). So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead provides tips on what to avoid (bullets or further head trauma), what to eat and how to hunt for it among other juicy tidbits. If I was a zombie new to undeath, I’d definitely want something like this (if I could still read) as a refresher course in how to proceed and succeed in my unlife.

From the straightforward language and references, to zombie literature and movies, to the detailed and hilarious artwork, I enjoyed each and every page. Sure, we all know that zombies hunger for brains (strict adherence to the “Brain Beach Diet”), but did you know that there are ways to communicate with other zombies to aid in hunting in packs? Did you also know that zombies should avoid humans possessed by demons because demons are unpredictable and “frickin’ crazy”?

I learned many indispensable tips for zombie life, such as:

  • Killer cyborgs are not edible, but Ronald McDonald is on the “ok-to-eat” list (Zombie Eye Chart, p22)
  • “Toe tags are a good indicator that your meal is spoiled.” (Body Q&A, p. 29)
  • To get into commercial buildings, “Tap on the glass — breathers love that!” (Commercial Buildings, p. 57)

There are many great movie references, such as “Hey, look at me, I’m at Pacific Playland!” (Zombieland) when describing how humans are “Always Drawing Attention to Themselves” (p. 37) and describing “Pretend Zombies” (as in Shaun of the Dead) as easy prey… “Can You Eat Them? Absolutely! These zombie poseurs should be eaten — slowly and alive!”

But it’s the humor throughout that had me chuckling as I read the book… There’s a whole section on “Obstacles You Will Face” — such as doorknobs, ladders, stairs, fences, trees, and ropes. And there are some great illustrations to help in defeating these obstacles, such as a picture of a kid climbing one of those ropes most of us hated in gym class with two zombies waiting at the bottom… “Just wait it out — your victim can’t hang on forever…” And when doorknobs are involved, “if physical abuse proves useless, try rotating the knob as indicated . (Result may vary.)” We’re doomed if zombies have detailed doorknob instructions!

One of my favorite sections is on “Waiting for Food” with a picture of zombies hiding behind trees that made me laugh out loud. All I could think of was the Monty Python sketch “How Not To Be Seen,” with zombies instead of Python members hiding behind shrubberies… Not all house plants or lawn-decorating plants are made equal evidently. Just make sure after the zombie outbreak that you look suspiciously at any zombie-shaped trees.

And the “Combat Quiz” (p. 103) tests your knowledge. After reading the book, you should be able to answer questions such as “Someone just stabbed a knife in my back, I should… a) Seek medical attention immediately! b) Get over it, and continue with what I am doing. c) Fall down to ease the pain. d) Have a fellow Zed remove it.” Considering zombies feel no pain and it’s not a head wound, I think I’d go with answer (b).

If you are preparing for the inevitable zombie apocalypse and your eventual change to the wandering dead, I’d encourage you to keep a copy of So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead by John Austin to stash in one of your open body cavities after death. You never know when it will come in handy!

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About Fitz

Fitz is a software engineer and writer who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with his family and pets, trying to survive the chaos!