Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies
Trade Paper, 304 pages, $14.00
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
If giving out awards for most aptly titled book, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies would be a contender; dismembered hands down. Matt Mogk, the founder and head of (and by important zombie extension, the brain behind) The Zombie Research Society, delivers a cornucopia of information. Factual and/or fictional, depending on one’s predisposition for paranoia, Mogk looks at aspects of a perceived undead threat, and pop culture’s distillation of it. With a tongue-in-cheek attitude, the author relates the pitfalls inherent in surviving a perceived inevitable apocalypse, while addressing the public’s willing acceptance of the walking dead in various media. The result is a zany, eccentric distillation of delusion that incorporates the corporeal with the intangible. It is easy to devour this satisfying blend of flesh and fantasy, and to consume its contents with brainless abandon.
The four sections into which the volume is divided are: Zombie Basics, Zombie Science, Zombie Survival, and Popular Culture. In the first three categories, there is inclusion of factual data which is employed to support a madcap fictional thesis. This hypothetical statement, for example, contains some substance; scattered accuracies beef up a contrived premise: “Without a doubt, India is the last place you want to be in a zombie pandemic. It packs in 944 people per square mile, making it an ideal recruiting ground for new undead conscripts, and of a total population of 1.3 billion, less than 4 percent own firearms.”
Putting on his guru garb, Mogk also offers advice about the importance of staying positive when surviving looks grim: “Failure will be the new norm. If you allow negative thoughts to enter the equation, they’ll eat your brain faster than any zombie horde, leaving you exposed to mortal danger on all sides.” Words to live by, indeed.
And, taking a page from Real Estate 101, he invokes the importance of location, location, location: “While a discount retailer such as Costco may score high in defensibility, with available weapons and almost no vulnerabilities, its sustainability rating takes a hit because of the extreme threat presented by the surrounding area. In a zombie outbreak, big-box stores will draw a desperate and violent crowd, quickly becoming epicenters of death.”
While on the seeming brink (wink, wink) of decimation, society appears to have embraced the enemy – at least in terms of pop culture. The author addresses this dichotomy in a philosophical and pragmatic way. The walking dead reflect us: mindlessly going through the motions at work; ennui running through our bloodstream. The perks of zombiehood are affiliation; being part of a roaming, senseless pack, as well as the collateral benefit of anonymity. He notes that those in the book publishing industry have seized upon the zombie zenith, capitalizing on it in any way possible: “I Talked with a Zombie is a collection of interviews with horror-movie insiders. None of the interviewees, however, has worked on a modern zombie movie. The word zombie doesn’t even appear inside the pages of the book, but the publishers slapped zombie in the title and cashed in.”
Everything You Every Wanted to Know About Zombies is marvelous mania: an extrapolation of facts gathered to bolster a playfully perverse postulation. Matt Mogk’s zombie knowledge and credentials are impeccable. He is clearly a “go-to guy” for suggestions about how to deal with conjectured chaos. And happily, his cogent commentary makes this crash course in the absurd ever so much fun.