The Zombie Survival Guide is a book written by Max Brooks.The title is pretty much self-explanatory. The book gives a detailed account on how to survive zombie outbreaks (all four levels). Written in a Deadpan Snarker tone, it is a comical look at what the average person would have to do to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, complete with a guide to arranging suitable food and weapon stores. Additionally, it explains how, if possible, to acquire a remote plot of land, and details describing how to turn it into a place to live for around twenty years, or until the zombies have decomposed.It also provides information as to what a zombie is, common myths, how to spot a zombie outbreak (the government is covering it up) and historical examples of zombies and how everything turned out.Followed up three years later by World War Z in which characters make occasional reference to it, usually saying how it wasn't very good.
This book provides examples of:
Armor Is Useless: Brooks holds that most body armor would just be dead weight when running from zombies. Most zombie bites occur on the arms and legs, while modern body armor focuses the best armor on the center of mass. Furthermore, chain mail is generally too noisy and will just attract more zombies to you, and cumbersome plate armor is just suicidal. The best protection is making yourself harder to grab in the first place, by wearing tight-fitting clothes and short hair.
That said, he mentions that shark suits, while still noisy, are specifically designed to protect against much stronger jaws than a zombie's, and are especially useful when fighting zombies underwater.
Anachronism Stew: In the book a zombie attack in China was mentioned. The zombies were said to be attacking a nuclear power plant in 1987. What's the problem with radioactive zombies in China? There were NO nuclear power plants in China until the 1990s' and they produced less radiation than most power plants at the time.
The idea that the solanum virus renders zombie flesh a Universal Poison. And it's not just brought up once or twice; it's stated that every animal from every ecosystem recognizes and flees from the smell of zombie flesh. Even other bacteria and viruses dare not to occupy a body that's infected with solanum. From the solanum virus's point of view, this makes about as much sense as an animal rendering all its own prey items inedible.
Artistic License - Physics: This really applies to any work of "standard" zombie fiction, but it is particularly glaring in this book, because the author goes to such pains to appear realistic. Zombies apparently gain no nourishment from the flesh they eat; they just have a compulsion to gorge themselves until their stomachs burst. And they can live for years. Even a dismembered zombie head can continue to live if its brain is intact. In Real Life the universe follows a little rule called the Second Law Of Thermodynamics, which states that, basically, you can't get something for nothing; if you consume no fuel, you cannot use energy. So where are the zombies getting the energy to move from?
Author Appeal: Of a certain type - the book exists because Brooks himself is terrified of zombies and has been since childhood, and he apparently decided to overcome his fear by writing about it.
Brooks himself explained both in one interview and the foreword to the book: men have perfected over millennia the art of dealing withliving predators. But predators, from a wolf through a tiger and towards an armed human, can be swayed, scared, wounded, starved, outwitted, baited, trapped or poisoned. Zombies don't obey any law of evolution, they kill because they were programmed to do so. In Brooks' words, zombies are like a virus themselves, not predators.
Awesome, yet Impractical: The fact zombies will only die if their brain is sufficiently damaged makes many things less than useful against them.
The good news? The "trench spike", a set of brass knuckles with spikes on either end, are fantastic zombie-killers. The bad news? They haven't been in mass-production since World War One.
The French came up with an alternative that can be produced readily for little cost even today, but that falls under Boring, but Practical.
Awesome yet Practical: Zeppelins are the best way to survive an outbreak. Seriously. They have the vertical take-off of helicopters, the e.distance and steering of of planes, and the longevity of hot air balloons, all with needing very little fuel for their size.
Anchor it to something and wait inside, out of zombie reach, for the breeze to die down: if zombies have taken over the world a little disruption to your travel timetable is to be expected. Yes: as a form of transport theyre a bit rubbish, as zombie-proof hideout that you can, under good conditions, move, they’d take some betting.
If you have the time and skill to master it, a Shaolin Spade (a quarterstaff with a bell curve blade at either end) is the ultimate tool for killing zombies at melee range, combining the cutting power of a katana with the reach of a polearm.
Bad Ass: practically everyone who not only didn't lose his/her cool during the recorded incidents, but was also able to kill a lot of zombies single-handedly, or came up with a winning strategy against them.
Regina Clark from Canada being one of them. Clark, armed only with a U.S. M1 carbine, led the zombies into a blind alley. Herding the undead into a confined space to allow her no more than four targets at one time. With cool aim and an astounding reload time, Clark dispatched the entire mob. Even more astounding is that the first zombie she dispatched was her own husband.
The Lakota Indian named Elija Black, presumably the first zombie slayer. Armed with a U.S. Army cavalry saber, and a Winchester repeater he saved an entire town by himself.
Boom, Headshot: The only, only, only way to kill a zombie for sure is to deal proper damage to the brain.
Boring, but Practical: The book highly recommends using a crowbar as a melee weapon over more exotic weaponry, due to its reach, balance, and ability to tear down any blockades that people might have set up.
Also, guns are only recommended when stealth is not a concern, as the noise will attract more zombies. The best type of gun to use would be a scoped semi-automatic rifle with a suppressor. The book specifically calls out automatic weapons as being not particularly useful: Why fire a spray of bullets when you only need one well-placed shot to kill a zombie? After all, hitting a zombie anywhere else is a waste of ammo.
Bolt-action rifles are highly recommended as well, as they are very tough, can be used as a good hand-to-hand weapon, and thanks to the bolt-action, the person can make every hit count, and therefore have a higher chance of killing a zombie.
Bicycles are an optimal vehicle for the zombie apocalypse, being quiet, versatile, and easy to use and maintain.
Brain in a Jar: Back when Marco Polo came by, Kublai Khan had a live zombie head preserved in a jar full of some kind of colorless alcohol.
Chainsaw Good: averted. The book specifically mentions chainsaws as being incredibly impractical as zombie-killing tools, because of their weight and the noise they make (which is liable to attract more zombies). The dangers of running out of fuel for the saw while surrounded by a horde of the undead are also highlighted as reasons to disregard it as an effective zombie-killing tool.
Cherry Blossoms: Japan at one point attempted militarizing zombies; the operation was referred to as "Cherry Blossom", in reference to the role Cherry Blossoms play in death, according to Shinto beliefs.
Enemy Mine: In 1993, two rival Los Angeles gangs team up to fight zombies.
Every Car Is a Pinto: The book warns you to be careful about shooting on the highway, because "a stray bullet could ignite an inferno".
Exotic Weapon Supremacy: Generally averted—the guide greatly emphasizes the importance of practical, easy-to-use weapons—although it's noted that if you had an unlimited selection in terms of bladed weapons, you'd definitely want to go with a Shaolin spade.
A World War I-era trench spike (a.k.a. "that knife from Heavy Metal") is also recommended. While not "exotic", they're definitely antique.
The humble hatchet, in the small size used in camping trips, can smash a skull, living or undead, with little effort.
A Fate Worse Than Death: The Portuguese Slave Ship incident is speculated to have involved a member of the crew becoming infected, and he spread the disease to the rest of the crew. It was then thought that one of the zombies bit one of the chained slaves. Who became a zombie and bit the next slave, and so on. The book mentions what that would be like for the unfortunate people at the end of the lines, watching their doom get closer and closer.
Not that dying of thirst in their chains would've been much kinder, if they hadn't been infected...
Fire Keeps It Dead: The guide recommends burning corpses during a zombie attack to make sure they don't resurrect, as well as diminishing the health hazard posed by decomposing flesh. Fire is the only way to safely dispose of a Solanium-infected corpse. All traces of the infection will be wiped out once the fire brings them down.
Government Conspiracy: No matter how much evidence you have, the government will make no one believe you. The author points out a particularly impressive cover-up, namely of the 1994 incident at the San Pedro port, which entailed shutting up dockyard management, the local police department, a private security company, and the entire crew of a freighter and its shipping company. No leaks except the one person who took photos (easily discredited due to the above), and all this at one of the busiest ports in the United States.
Averted with the final entry, where the zombie became something of a local folk legend, gaining spinoff merchandise and everything.
Hard Head: The book emphasizes that a human skull is one of the hardest things to fracture, let alone shatter, which is why most blunt weapons are not exactly one's best weapon of choice against the undead.
Hollywood Law: Brooks says"Obviously, any civilian group will not have access to a real tank or APC". In practice, a civilian can acquire a tank having enough money to spend, as civilian collections/museums do, just that legally all weapons have to be deactivated by welding the breechblock. But it still has treads and armor and can reduce the enemy to a bloody pulp.
Elsewhere though, and in multiple places, Brooks explicitly says to not look for survivors or absent family members when the outbreak hits. You're not going to help anyone by getting yourself killed. The cowboy hero who rides in to save the day does not have zombie immunity.
Historical In-Joke: Zombies are speculated to be the reason behind various historical events, such as...
...the detente between Egypt and Israel, supposedly directly related to a 1975 outbreak.
...the disappearance of the British colony at Roanoke.
...the fact that the ancient Egyptians removed the brain during mummification.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: The author states that Solanum is the worst enemy of humanity... beside humanity itself. Even if you don't take the failed attempts at using zombies as a weapon by armies over time, sometimes the sheer stupidity and cruelty of some people worsened zombie outbreaks. And look how colonists treated locals who were better prepared than them in fighting zombies, even after they saved their asses sometimes.
I'm a Humanitarian: The Cossacks of the 1583 incident. They eat all the food in a village of people who saved them, and then turn to cannibalism with disturbing readiness. Once that runs out the decide to dig up graves; one of the corpses they eat turns out to be a zombie. They all die.
Infernal Retaliation: The author notes that, while fire will definitely get rid of a zombie eventually, you have to wait for it to burn away while it gains the ability to set everything on fire.
It's Quiet... Too Quiet The author explains that wildlife of all kinds instinctively flee when they detect Solanum, the virus responsible for reanimating zombies, seemingly as if evolution had coded this behaviour into all creatures. If, in areas abundant with noisy wildlife such as jungle and swamps, humans in the area hear nothing, this means that the undead are very likely to be near as there are next to no situations in which this would be the case. In addition, heavily infested areas are found devoid of any wildlife by survivors as everything has been consumed by ghouls, so cities especially but also other areas known for constant noise, whether human or wildlife created, become jarringly and eerily silent.
Katanas Are Just Better: A combination of this trope and a highly competent zombie-hunting sect leaves Japan completely safe on the zombie front until operation Cherry Blossom.
Kick the Dog: The slaves of Castries, ST. Lucia had rallied together to retake their island from zombies after their white slave owners were wiped out. They even asked some of the few remaining whites for help, but they refused and locked themselves up in the local fortresses. The other remaining whites fled the city to the outlying plantations, or escaped using what ever boat was available. By the tenth day, 50 percent of the white population was dead. Forty percent, more than several hundred individuals, were prowling the island as reanimated zombies. This left a sizable force of black slaves who now found themselves "free". The slaves were eventually successful in defeating the zombie horde.... Only for the cavalry to arrive and enslave them all over again. Ten days after the last zombie was dispatched, British and French colonial troops arrived. Instantly, all former slaves were placed back in chains. Also, all the free blacks and mulattoes were made into slaves because this incident was viewed as a slave uprising and so they were being punished for helping the slaves rebel. Any resisters were hanged....damn.
No Bikes In The Apocalypse: Averted. The guide considers bicycles the ideal vehicle for a zombie apocalypse, since they're quick, versatile, easy to use and maintain, and almost noiseless.
No Honor Among Thieves: It's asserted several times that bandit groups will inevitably die out from in-fighting.
Our Zombies Are Different: Type P. This book will only be useful if you're dealing with shamblers, as opposed to 28 Days Later- or Zombieland-style ones (the ones that sprint). The guide also takes care to remind you that you're after undead zombies, not voodoo-living-slave zombies.
Brooks hates the fast zombie trend. The first chapter of the book is debunking zombie myths, and he notes how stupid it is to think that a quickly rotting corpse that hasn't eaten or drunk water in days would somehow have the energy to sprint. Yet despite this, he constantly lampshades the fact that zombies defy logic by being able to move at all, even at the bottom of the sea where they would be crushed by water pressure. To be fair, fast zombies often aren't undead, but just people infected with a rabies-like disease. They tend to die of starvation/thirst after a relatively short period of time. (Though of course this isn't a hard and fast rule.)
Considering the entry under Author Appeal, perhaps he hates the trend because the idea of being unable to out-run them scares him even more?
Properly Paranoid: At one point, the book reassures the reader that even though its instructions border on paranoid, they're entirely justified.
Rapunzel Hair: Will definitely get you killed by zombies grabbing at you - tie it up or cut it off.
The Siege: Quite a few small towns in the recorded attacks section. Especially Fort Louis Philippe, a French out post in North Africa.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The above-mentioned gangs in Enemy Mine kill all the zombies, but when the cops show up their story is impossible to prove — it just looks like they murdered a ton of homeless people. They all go to prison and are murdered by rival gang members.
Hell, most of the survivors of the recorded attacks wind up either discredited, imprisoned, or executed. Special mention to the Canadian Documentary Maker who survived a two day siege, and managed to get the entire thing recorded on camera, only for him to have the film declared a hoax, gets discredited, has to settle a divorce and several lawsuits, and for the footage to be restricted from public viewing. Ouch.
The Russian military survivors and scientists, who manage to turn their overrun base into a fortress, with its own power. They and the zombies are nuked off the face of the Earth.
Shotguns Are Just Better: Averted. Because you have to destroy the brain to take a zombie out, for a shotgun to work you have to let the zombie get closer than you probably want. Also, ammo is extremely bulky. A semiautomatic assault rifle is far more effective.
Although, the author does state that shotguns have incredible stopping power to help you keep your distance and could potentially blow a zombie's head clean off.
Also, shotguns actually have much lower spread than implied. Unless you're using target load, it would be EASIER for an inexperienced shooter to make a headshot at the ranges where they'd realistically be able to hit with a rifle.
Short Range Shotgun: The book perpetuates the myth that shotguns are both inaccurate and of short range.
Shovel Strike: The guide says the Shaolin Spade is a very effective weapon in decapitating zombies from a good distance.
Super Senses: Brooks considers the possibility that the undead may possess some form of sixth-sense, as even when robbed of their ability to see, smell or hear, zombies still possess the ability to track down their human prey.
The Tetris Effect: Get too into this book and you'll soon be idly scanning your neighborhood for easily barricaded streets, potential fortifications, arable land and secure sources of potable water.
TV Never Lies: Chinese conspiracy and zombie lovers believe that zombies are being developed in Xinjiang. Some even posted "evidence" satellite photos, but they turned out to be made with Class 3 Outbreak, a satellite-map based zombie game. Now it has become some kind of internet Memetic Mutation, being associated with all kinds of strange tales from Xinjiang.
Inside the prison walls, a coalition of scientists, military personnel, and prisoners was surviving quite comfortably. [...] Radio contact was even maintained on a daily basis. The survivors reported that, given their position, they could hold out until winter, when, hopefully, the undead would freeze solid. Three days before the first autumn frost, a Soviet aircraft dropped a crude thermonuclear device on Byelgoransk.