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Posts Tagged ‘mel brooks’

The Zombie Survival Guide: Humor Done Dead Serious

Posted by goldwriting on December 2, 2008

zombiesurvivalguide If only I’d read this before summer camp of ’84…

Rating: 8 out of 10

You’re standing on the top of your local water tower, while below you is a moaning and clawing horde of the walking dead. Your pump action shotgun has proved mostly useless and you’re almost out of shells anyway. What could you do to summon help? Is there any way out of your self-made trap? What could you have done to prepare better for this onslaught of undead? These are all great questions that many people think they will never have to ask themselves, but in the world of Max Brooks those questions get asked each and every day and he takes them very seriously. (Kind of…)

The Zombie Survival Guide is a completely serious approach to the methods and training needed to withstand a zombie attack. The first section details which weapons are good to use (tried and true machetes will always outdo flashy firepower, like an Uzi), which terrains are best to travel in (cities are great for location protection, but easy to get trapped in, while the frozen tundra is technically your best bet), and what kind of equipment you should pack if you’re going on the run (surprisingly, this list is eerily similar to any well-prepared hunter). Once you have the basics down for offense, defense and escape tactics, the guide proceeds to detail the long and largely secretive history of zombie attacks all over the world. From the pre-historic regions of Central Africa to an attack on the Virgin Islands only six years ago, you’ll read case after case of cover-up, deceit and blatant denial of any existence of the zombie phenomenon. Unfortunately for those trying to keep it hidden, zombies have a long standing tradition of sitting and waiting for the right moment to strike.

Max Brooks is the son of comedy legend Mel Brooks and screen icon Anne Bancroft, so life in the entertainment world was in his blood. He also picked up from his father the truth that making people laugh is very serious business and shouldn’t be taken lightly if you plan on doing it well. He also honed his craft in the writer’s room of Saturday Night Live for three seasons and wrote for over forty episodes. I have no idea where he found the time, but in those crazy days of skit comedy and hair-pulling deadlines, he wrote this survival guide against the undead, which went on to become a New York Times Bestseller. The completely serious tone he maintains throughout the novel is critical to the underlying humor of it. He knows that true humor comes from when the person delivering the punch line doesn’t know it’s a punch line. There is an odd sensation while you move through the chapters where slowly you almost forget it’s a joke. I wasn’t getting any urges to stock up on kerosene or long-range rifle scopes, but there is a lot of truth tucked in between those pages. The survival techniques spelled out in the book could easily help any hiker or traveler stuck in the woods without food or one being chased by a bear. Those kernels of down-to-earth facts help strengthen the tone and keep the reader hooked in. In the historical sections, Max also brilliantly laid them out in chronological order, which allowed him to refer to past instances as the reason or cause of future outbreaks (as in cases were the zombies from one attack were not properly disposed of, only to come back years later to strike once more).

Max went on from the success of this book to pen his sequel, World War Z, which again is a seriously toned historical fiction detailing oral accounts from people who survived the worldwide outbreak of the zombie race. I actually read that one first, mainly because it was given to me as a gift, but the order of the two books matters very little in terms of enjoyment. World War Z is now being adapted into a movie for Paramount Pictures and Brad Pitt’s company, Plan B Entertainment. Max turned down the offer to write the script since he felt he wouldn’t get the best out of it, so the screenwriting duties fell to J. Michael Straczynski, who is currently enjoying great acclaim for his possibly Oscar nominated script, Changeling (not necessarily from me, but I’m only one voice among the many). No real word on what Max is working on now, but you can be sure it will be serious…seriously funny.

Recommendation: If you’ve ever read any of those other survival guide books, take a crack at this and see how easy it is to get sucked in. Also, this is a true goldmine for any fan of the undead.

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