- This book presents itself as an oral history (interviews) of a near-future zombie war. It is fundamentally about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. So after a series of crushing defeats for humanity, the Moments of Awesome, by necessity, take up basically the entire second half of the book. Max Brooks even manages to throw a little Fanservice in.
- Two examples that come to mind both take place in Japan.
- One involves a scrawny, physically unfit otaku. He spent a good amount of the war studying the zombies. When the zombies attack Kyoto, he escapes out of a window, and in an attempt to find a suitable weapon comes upon an apartment with an (allegedly) dead man in it. The man reanimates, and is killed by the otaku. Afterwords, he finds a suitable weapon. What is it? A katana that the man carried during his years in the Imperial Japanese Army. Awesomeness isn't explicitly mentioned until the next chapter.
- In the other example, a blind survivor of the Hiroshima bombing comes upon a bear. After spending years isolated from Japanese society for his condition, he dares the bear to kill him. The bear runs (admittedly, from a zombie, but still). The man then whirls around, hears the zombie with his heightened senses, and brains the undead on the spot. He later encounters the otaku (and almost kills him when mistaking for him as a hostile). He is more or less Daredevil or Zatoichi. Let's not forget his closing line:
Tomonaga Ijiro: "I told him that we might be facing fifty million monsters, but those monsters would be facing the gods."
- That same blind old man also manages to lure numerous of the dead to his location — and easily dispatch them all. And because he's aware of their slow movement, he even has time to finish his prayers, get to a safe location, and apologise to the zombies for killing them whilst he does so.
- And then retrieves the body, and buries it. And drops 41 severed heads into a volcano.
- Also Fridge Brilliance: of course he'd always strike the zombies in the head, without needing to be told to or to learn their weak points through trial and error. That's the part of the zombie that's moaning, so he can pinpoint it as a target by its noise. He starts by targeting the neck (arguably where the moan is coming from, but it's clear he has such a detailed sonic image of his target he doesn't need to key in on the source of the noise that way) and learns by trial and error to strike just above the nose. And he probably got detailed zombie info from the people he hitched rides with getting to the Hiddaka Mountains. He's not targeting the neck because that's where the noise is coming from, he is following the maxim to destroy the head.
- A literal crowning moment of anti-zombie awesome was captured by filmmaker Roy Elliot in his propaganda film Fire of the Gods, which featured a searchlight-sized deuterium fluoride laser:
The poster campaign showed a close-up of a zombie being atomized. The image was lifted right from a frame in the movie, the one classic shot when the morning fog actually allowed you to see the beam. The caption underneath read simply "Next."
- A double moment- not only is the scene awesome, but despite the fact that these weapons were not in any way practical, they restored enough confidence in people that they stopped literally dying in their sleep from hopelessness.
- In the second half again. The Battle of Hope. Iron Maiden music that was cranked to eleven fades out. "Ready! Aim! Fire!" Eighteen or so hours later, zombie casualties: helluva lot. Human casualties: zero.
- Pretty much the entire second half of the book. Some highlights:
- This line, when a California soccer mom finds a zombie in her home:
Max: "What did you do?"
Mary Jo Miller: "I... I'm not totally sure. When I try to remember, everything goes by too fast. I had it by the neck. It pulled Jenna toward its open mouth. I squeezed hard... pulled... The kids say I tore the thing's head off, just ripped it right out with all the flesh and muscle and whatever else hanging in tatters."
- The former pro wrestler who picked up and used a zombie as a club. And broke down crying at the scent of perfume that reminded him of someone. We never find out who.
- The nun who defended her Sunday school class for nine days with a six-foot iron candle holder. And then goes on to join the army and serve at the Battle of Hope.
- The cattle rancher who defended his herd from a zombie attack in true cowboy style.
- The crew of the International Space Station, who stayed behind to keep as many important satellites as possible up and running, getting a massive dose of radiation in the process. The one interviewed has the best room, with the best meds, in the best hospital in Australia. He died three days after the interview, having survived the longest out of the entire crew. He still insists they weren't heroes.
- The Battle of the Five Colleges, where about 300 students held off a zombie horde with nothing but garden tools, wooden planks, songs, and practice rifles.
- Which was filmed after a former director who'd made it to the safe zone realized that people were dying in their sleep en masse due to widespread subconscious Despair Event Horizons. (It Makes Sense In Context.) He and his son biked up to the colleges and filmed the whole damn thing, also helping out in the effort. They put it together into a coherent film and convince those in charge of the safe zone to let them screen it. At first, the lack of dramatic reactions from audiences leaves him convinced it's a failure... until someone shows up to ask if he has any more copies of it, because a measurable drop in sudden death syndrome rates has been observed in areas where the film is being screened.
- "She... she wouldn't leave, you see. She insisted, over the objections of Parliament, to remain at Windsor, as she put it, 'for the duration.'" Windsor survived the war.
- 500 Maori warriors against half of zombified Auckland. It's strongly implied the Maori won.
- The people of New York fighting the zombies with basically anything they could get their hands on. Sure, they probably all die, but it's still cool.
- The Chinese submarine crews sending their missiles crashing into the Politburo's bunker, ending not only a civil war, but destroying decades of tyrannic, authoritarian rule with it.
- This line, when a California soccer mom finds a zombie in her home:
- In "Closure, LTD.", a new expansion written for The New Dead, Max gets one when he finally gets the chance to shoot a zombie himself.
- The American counterattack. Adapting a battle tactic from India, they lure the Zombies into surrounding them, and then use sharpshooter tactics to kill every single one for miles around.
- Not to mention the man whose tactics they copied. General Raj-Singh had to be knocked unconscious by his men and dragged to a helicopter to stop him from making a Last Stand and he later performed a Heroic Sacrifice to save the refugees from getting nuked by blowing the explosives by hand.
- They then proceed to make two lines of men the width of the continent, and march north and south, blasting apart every single zombie they find.
- The story of the security guy who walked out on the idiots trying to reenact "The Masque of the Red Death".
- Fidel Castro got one. When the American refugees influenced the Cuban people into demanding democracy, what was his reaction? A crackdown that could cause a civil war? Nope: he led the transformation of Cuba in a democracy and handed the power to the democratically-elected government, earning himself a good retirement and the honor of being the father of Cuban democracy after ruling the country as a dictator for decades.
- Todd Wainio's story, which composes the longest thread in the book and covers the majority of the American pullback and reclamation is full of these moments delivered offhandedly about his fellow soldiers, but the biggest one is Todd himself being the only one of all of them to make it from Yonkers to Hope and back to New York.
- Darnell Hackworth going completely berserk and beating the holy hell out of two men for hurting a dog, in spite of the fact that he was exhausted, dehydrated, suffering from rickets and weighed maybe ninety pounds. He had to be pulled off them by a soldier who, upon hearing the reason, sent him straight to the K9 corps.
- Saladin's father and his Papa Wolf moment, summed up thusly:
I didn’t understand where this man had come from, this lion who’d replaced my docile, frail excuse for a parent. A lion protecting his cubs. He knew that fear was the only weapon he had left to save my life and if I didn’t fear the threat of the plague, then dammit, I was going to fear him!
- It is heavily implied that the denizens of New York City, surrounded by tens of millions of zombies, an absolute death trap completely written off by the military, actually held out for the duration. For starters, NYC is referred to as the 'Hero City' constantly, which was a title bestowed by the Soviets upon cities that had held out against the Nazis during Operation Barbarossa. Beyond that, it's noted that there was a film made entitled The Hero City set during the siege. NYC was considered a lost cause; people were fleeing big cities everywhere. The only scene we see from NYC involves a massacre. But they held out.
- Gerry killing a would-be rapist in a convenience store.
- Gerry throwing grenade on a plane, blowing a hole in it and causing all the zombies to get sucked out.
- The Zombies overrunning Jerusalem is a Crowning Moment of Awesome on both fronts. The zombies climbing the walls and using their mindless berserker tactics against the populace and soldiers to devastating effect, and the soldiers managing to actually stall the horde and allowing a good portion of the civilians inside Jerusalem to escape.
- Gerry makes the simple act of walking badass given the situation at hand; Having theorized that the zombies ignore humans with terminal illnesses, he injects himself with a lethal contagion(with a roughly fifty-fifty chance of it being one without a cure) and becomes functionally invisible to the zombies. He then nonchalantly drinks a soda, dumps a few dozen cans on the floor, then walks through the mob of charging monsters like Moses through the Red Sea. One of the mindless freaks actually shoves him aside to attack the fallen soda cans!
- The ending montage of humanity's offensive against the undead is awesome in the literal sense of the word.
- The zombies forming a driver ant style human ladder is an impressive feat, something not normally seen in zombie flicks.
- Segen is basically a walking moment of awesome, even after she loses a hand.
- The soldiers of Humphrey in South Korea. Specifically Captain Spekes who not only retained his snark but is also a great leader to his men. He gets to plow through a whole army of Zeke with a truck, always has something cool to say and offs himself before he can turn into a "God damn Zeke".
Captain: It's all right, boys. I got this one.