Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Zombie Survival Guide

Go To

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.


Brooks also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide Recorded Attacks, a comic book depicting some of the recorded attacks with art by Brazilian artist Ibraim Roberson.

This book provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Syntax: The Los Angeles recorded attack talks about the deaths of the original gang members involved in the incident, which can leave some ambiguity as to whether it just means the gang who was hold up in a building besieged by zombies, or hat gang and their former rivals who showed up to fight them but ended up fighting alongside them.
  • Androcles' Lion: During the Recorded Attacks the few survivors of the Egyptian town of Al-marq, after being rescued by an Israeli force, managed to convince their own soldiers (who arrived after the battle) not to kill the captured Israeli's who were sent home. On a National level, the author proposes this as a possible reason behind Egypt and Israel scaling back on hostilities against each other.
  • 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. Though given that Zombies can survive under the waves with no need for oxygen, the threat of underwater zombies makes this a crucial piece of advice.
  • Artistic License – Biology: A few examples.
    • 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. It does mention that there are some types that can infect a solanum-infected corpse, otherwise they wouldn't decompose, but which ones they are are not mentioned.
    • It also says that all of a zombie's nerve endings are non-functional ... not just pain receptors, but all of them. If that were true, the damn things wouldn't even be able to crawl, let alone walk, because they'd have no sense of their own limbs' positions and couldn't detect whether any given appendage was touching the ground or not.
    • A dried out body would be so fragile that it would fall apart.
    • By all accounts, solanum's functions are a biological impossibility without some sort of supernatural element. The book takes pain to emphasize that all bodily processes (including blood circulation and breathing, the only utility of which is to moan at humans to attract more) are shut down, as solanum only needs to use a corpse as a vector to spread itself further. However, without blood or oxygen intake, a zombie wouldn't even be able to move since the muscles require oxygen and nutrients in order to properly function.
    • This book resurrects (pun intended) the hoary old chestnut about humans only using 5% of their brain capacity.
    • The slave ship scenario wouldn't actually work, as Solanum takes so long to incubate that the majority of the slaves would have died of thirst long before it reached them.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The ancient Romans were not nearly as pragmatic and rational as the book suggests; they attributed success and misfortune heavily on divine signs and portents.
    • 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 zombie attack account from an American sailor in Taiwan dates from 1901, and mentions a platoon of Nationalist Chinese troops accompanying the shore party. But they shouldn't even be there, as the Nationalist government wasn't established in China until 1911.
    • Taiwan was also a Japanese colony back in 1901 after the First Sino-Japanese War. China didn't reclaim Taiwan until 1945.
    • Brooks mentions a completely fictional (but cool-sounding) WWII-era Japanese chemical warfare unit called BLACK DRAGON, who tested the zombie virus on Japanese dissidents. This is frustrating for a few reasons: 1, there probably weren't enough Japanese openly opposed to the war for this group to get any more than a handful of potential test subjects, and 2, the fairly well known Unit-731 actually existed, and actually did conduct biological warfare experiments on prisoners of war and enemy civilians (mostly Chinese) during the war. These zombies are later deployed against Mao's forces near the end of the war, a strategy which makes no sense when one remembers Mao fought one battle against Japan during the war, got his ass kicked, and proceeded to hide in the Soviet Union for the remainder of the fighting, letting America and Nationalist China handle most of the heavy lifting. This would be roughly the equivalent of Hitler dropping his one atomic bomb on Allied Brazil.
  • 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? The guide even makes a point of bringing this up and commenting on how baffling it is.
    • Small, lightweight calibers like the .22 tend to lose most of their momentum against the first thing they hit, so a .22 bullet cannot continuously pinball around inside someone's skull, undead or not. The rimfire nature of .22 Long Rifle also makes the round itself, particularly the bulk ammo most commonly found in stores, extremely unreliable. There's a reason no one who knows anything about guns suggests them for self defense.
    • The book goes out of its way to lambast AR-pattern rifles, supposedly due to their .223 ammunition being too small to effectively stop zombies, which can only be killed by a brain-destroying bullet to the head, while at the same time heavily favoring AK patterns due to their reliability and that the bigger 7.62 bullet being what is needed to put the zombies down. This completely ignores that modern AR patterns are much more reliable than they were when first introduced in the Sixties, and that, while the .223 bullet is indeed smaller, it flies incredibly fast and is much more accurate than 7.62, and is more than enough to deal fatal damage to the human brain. One of the greatest advantages of the .223 is that you can carry a lot more ammo due to its smaller and lighter size, meaning in the hands of someone who knows how to handle a gun, it's just as effective if not more than the 7.62. It's especially glaring, since the author stresses that two of the most important factors when fighting zombies with guns are accuracy and bringing enough ammunition.
  • 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.
  • Awesome by Analysis: In one Recorded Attack story (Owl Creek Mountains, 1842) a frontier scout in the party that finds the remains of an attack debunks suspicions that the local Natives are responsible by pointing out the Native Americans would have taken the livestock, with a count of the animal skeletons proving none are missing.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical: The fact zombies will only die if their brain is sufficiently damaged makes many things less than useful against them.
    • During the 2nd World War, the Japanese tried using zombies as offensive weapons, by unloading them from subs onto American island bases, setting them loose in enemy territory in Asia, and even dropping them into China by parachute. Sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately, the crews of the submarines were either eaten en route or destroyed by enemy forces, the ones that were to be set loose on the battlefield ate their handlers before they could get there, and the para-zombies were mistaken for ordinary paratroopers by Chinese snipers, who were trained to go for the head as a matter of course.
    • The guide specifically mentions machine guns and chainsaws- yes, awesome, but they're loud (which draws the attention of zombies), heavy (which makes you tired, while the zombies won't lose any steam), rely on fuel (which other weapons such as machetes or the aforementioned trench knives don't), and more importantly don't always destroy the brain. Chainsaws are heavy, lifting them up to destroy the brain takes some time, and the primary advantage of the machine gun is that it unleashes a storm of fire on enemies, incapacitating them with massive wounds... but since all you need is one bullet to the head, it's just a massive waste of ammo.
    • Hilariously, in-universe this book is considered this in non-United States areas in the sequel, World War Z. Interviewees state multiple times that the book is almost exclusively written for Americans, and that several things mentioned (easy access to weapons, Sport Utility Vehicles, not to mention certain attitudes and weapon types) are simply not found in other places.
  • Beware the Living:
    • In the "Defense" chapter, which is about the pros and cons of different forms of shelter, Brooks discusses whether or not a prison is a viable option. He mentions that while some prisons are sturdy enough to hold off the living dead indefinitely, you still have to worry about the inmates...
    Considering that within a prison's walls are the most dangerous members of our society, wouldn't it be wiser to confront the undead? Most of the time, the answer is yes.
    • When discussing where to go to during the initial outbreak, Brooks notes that Police Stations and Gun stores are probably the last places you want to go. Police Stations would be flooded by unprepared citizens freaking out (which would both attract zombies and most likely result in you being trampled to death by the mob), while Gun Stores would either be occupied by a very paranoid shopkeep, or already overrun by crazy people looking for firearms to defend themselves and would probably shoot you dead the moment you came in.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Hilariously subverted with Harland Lee.
  • 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 has a great need to 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.
      • Also motorcycles. Brooks got it right: heavy cruiser / touring bikes are much more maneuverable and far easier to maintain than any car, have reasonable performance on countryside dirt roads or damaged urban roads, can carry a few hundreds of pounds of supplies and a few hundreds more if they have a sidecar and can be pushed to the nearest safe place to be repaired if damaged.
    • One attack on a dockyard is foiled by crane operators who place cargo containers as barriers, then drop more of them on several of the zombies.
    • While armor capable of stopping a human bite seems like the best defense against zombies, the book notes that most armors of that type would either seal in your sweat (in the case of a shark suit) or be too cumbersome to wear for more than a few hours (plate armor). It instead recommends tight fitting (but comfortable) clothes with little pockets, short hair and running shoes, as these have nothing for the zombie to grab on to, is quite maneuverable, and won't tire you out.
  • 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.
  • Break the Haughty: Don Rafael Corodza (a Spanish noble hunting for El Dorado) ignores the advice of his guides about journeying into an area filled with zombies (even though most of his men believed them), and quite possibly abandoned all of his men to save himself. Upon his return to Spain he's disgraced for wasting crown recourses and supposed hersey with his tales of the zombies.
  • Burn the Undead: Discussed, and strongly advised against most of the time. Zombies are not scared of nor slowed down by fire, they take a long time to burn, and a burning zombie can do far more collateral damage to the environment than a regular one. That said, Brooks advises that fire can be an effective anti-zombie weapon in very specific circumstances (e.g. the zombies are trapped in a ditch they can't easily escape from), and burning infected bodies after the zombie is destroyed is an excellent way to make sure that the virus doesn't spread.
  • Call-Back: A lot of the recorded zombie attacks mentioned in the latter half of the book are linked to each other, as ghouls from previous incidents show up to cause more trouble: the Japanese forces come across the island Francis Drake called 'the Isle of the Damned'; the Canadian film maker Jacob Tailor has to fight off a horde created by a defrosted Cossack who was infected in 1583; zombies left over from the Knudhansen Party massacre continue to cause outbreaks in America throughout the 19th century; and some downed pilots in WWII happen upon the remains of Fort Louis Philippe.
  • 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.
  • Crazy-Prepared: You're advised to be.
  • Deconstruction: The novel essentially tells the What If? story of a real-life Zombie Apocalypse, and how it would end. For starters, zombies would just naturally decompose over time and be completely gone by the winter time, and extremely humid areas such as near lakes would be fine due to zombies rotting in a few days at most, taking a wrench to the idea that an apocalypse stays an apocalypse forever.
  • Driven to Suicide: Some men of the French Foreign Legion committed suicide during the three-year long zombie siege on their fortress.
  • Enemy Mine: In 1993, two rival Los Angeles gangs team up to fight zombies. Interestingly, it's noted as one of the few times that overkill was applied to a zombie attack, resulting in the zombies all getting wiped out with very few human casualties.
  • Enemy to All Living Things: The Solanum virus, which is feared by all animals.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The book warns you to be careful about shooting on the highway when derelict cars are littered on it, because "a stray bullet could ignite an inferno". Outside of action movies, it is actually really hard to get a modern car to explode using bullets.
  • 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.
    • Brooks recommends the katana as a good melee weapon against zombies. While many actual sword experts disagree, a good katana can easily decapitate a zombie provided the proper two-handed draw-cutting method is used. Traditional tamahagane katanas are prone to rusting, require constant maintenance, and are somewhat fragile, so a katana made of modern alloys may be preferable. Brooks eventually concludes that a machete, preferably of high-grade military issue, would be the best bladed weapon.
    • 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.
    • The book highly recommends the Soviet era titanium crow bars as both a tool and a weapon. Something of a subversion as the crow bars are preferred simply due to their light weight.
    • Played completely straight with centerfire rifles, though. Brooks cannot say enough about how wonderful the AK-47 is, while casually dismissing the AR15 for a host of completely inaccurate reasons, which include:
      • The ability to go full-auto. Even military M16s can't do this any more, let alone civilian rifles. And if this is a strike against the M16, it'd also be one against the AK, which is also sometimes capable of selective fire.
      • Inherent inaccuracy. The examples Brooks use are from the Vietnam War, a good twenty years before the book was written, although they do allow Brooks a pause wherein he can launch into a short Author Filibuster about the evils of the military industrial complex.
      • Ammo for the M16 would be nearly impossible to find in America. The country who fields it as their primary weapon and which has had very long, drawn-out discussions about the proliferation of this rifle in civilian hands. The level of Critical Research Failure is somewhat astonishing.
  • 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...
  • Fearless Fool: While his plan didn't work, when Vitre, Louisiana was attacked, one resident raced outside to douse all of the zombies with molasses out of hopes that it would attract a horde of insects to devour them, and then managed to make it back inside safely.
  • 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 Solanum-infected corpse. All traces of the infection will be wiped out once the fire brings them down. That being said, it also warns that setting fire to the zombie while it's still moving will basically make a giant, flaming torch that is still capable of biting and infecting while gaining the charming ability to set fire to everything it touches.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: All animal life on earth instinctively fears and runs away from zombies, so a conspicuous absence of animals or animal noise might be your first clue that the undead are nearby.
  • Government Conspiracy: No matter how much evidence you have, the government will make sure no one believes 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Plus, ever since the War on Terror began, police departments have been getting APCs with functioning turrets.
  • Hold the Line: Regina Clark of Jarvie British Columbia did this against a mob of twenty-one zombies who interrupted the surviving townspeople escape attempt and managed to kill all of them without dying herself.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Occasionally referred to as being an adequate substitute for a crossbow or similar silent weapon. The point would be more viable with respect to the "on the move" situation covered in one chapter, where weight would be a key factor. And where the difference in noise between a suppressed and an unsuppressed weapon might actually allow one to kill and run without too many more zombies being drawn to your location.
  • Honor Before Reason: Brooks explicitly advises a pragmatic approach to fleeing zombie-infested areas and advises against looking for survivors or absent family members when the outbreak hits, but accepts that "Sometimes, logic must give way to humanity."
  • 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.
  • Hummer Dinger: Large SUVs are generally treated as Awesome, but Impractical due to their fuel consumption and misleading claims about all-terrain prowess.
  • I Love the Dead: Brought up very briefly: it is unknown whether Solanum can be sexually transmitted, but anyone who would attempt to find out is Too Dumb to Live anyway.
  • 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.
  • The Jaywalking Dead: It includes one account of a driver accidentally running over a slow-moving pedestrian. As soon as he gets out of his car, he notices the victim slowly crawling towards him...
  • 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.
  • More Dakka: The guide warns against this, saying that a single accurate headshot is the only thing that can truly stop a zombie. Anything else is a waste of precious ammunition.
  • Native Guide:
    • In one recorded attack (East Africa, 1905) one is the Sole Survivor of an expedition attacked by a zombie and is accused of murder and executed.
    • In another recorded attack (1971, Rwanda) a Native Guide working for a nature documentary expedition refuses to enter a valley with mysterious moaning and warns his employers to avoid it as well, saying that the dead walk there. They listen to the man.
  • 90% of Your Brain: Cited by the author (who actually states it as 5% of the brain being utilized by humans) as a possible means by which a zombie may have access to senses not normally available to the living. As the book is presenting only hypothetical speculation rather than attributing any actual zombie abilities to this, it could be a case of an In-Universe error by the author.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: During the "Khotan incident", zombies attacked a nuclear power station and became contaminated with radiation, resulting in Radioactive Zombies. The author freely admits that this sounds like "something from bad 1950's science fiction".
    • Amusingly enough, the only special power granted to the zombies by their radiation exposure was... radioactivity. Specifically, causing nearby human survivors to suffer from radiation sickness, the (already dead) zombies not being bothered one bit.
  • 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 Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The author advises against taking too many risks to save other survivors for this reason. Recorded Attacks (1852, Chapas Mexico) also has a mention of three American treasure hunters rescuing a man from what they thought was a ritual sacrifice only to end up bitten by the man (who turned out to be a zombie).
  • No Honor Among Thieves: It's asserted several times that bandit groups will inevitably die out from infighting.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Multiple Recorded Attacks end with authorities mistaking the aftermath of the suppressed zombie outbreaks for regular old massacres and punishing the people who put the outbreak down.
  • 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.
  • Perpetual-Motion Monster: Lampshaded.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Traffic Jam: The Guide warns about these. Very often, someone was infected by the zombie virus, tried to escape in a vehicle, succumbed to the virus, and reanimated in that vehicle.
  • 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. Zombie-minded people with long hair are already aware that running around with loose hair is impractical, and they'd be braiding/bunning their hair anyway.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: In one Recorded Attacks story (1905, East Africa) the man acting as a defense counsel for a Simon, Native Guide doesn't believe Simon's claims that the men he killed where zombies (making it a case of self-defense which would keep the man form being hanged). The lawyer instead argues that Simon shouldn't be hanged due to his obvious insanity. Simon is hanged anyway as the insanity defense was only permitted to white defendants at the time.
  • Rule of Cool: The more knowledge someone has about real-life survival and tactics, the more obvious it becomes that the book runs almost entirely on this, with most of the "research" clearly derived from movies, television shows and video games.
  • Shed Armor, Gain Speed: Highly advised since any armor that would provide complete protection would be heavy, and no doubt cook the wearer in hot weather. Mobility and being harder to grab are better options.
  • 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.
    • Half of the town of Piedmont, Oregon survived long enough to gather a lot of food and weapons fight their way to the mine, and seal themselves inside by blowing the entrance, only to starve to death before a relief party could arrive.
    • Judging by the horrible fate which awaits any human contaminated by the virus, turned into a moving brainless slowly-rotting corpse with no physical sensations, even being imprisoned or shot is milder. Shoot first and deal with the law later.
    • 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 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.
    • Shotguns as manufactured have a choke point or venturi at a certain point in the barrel, which limits the spread. If this removed by boring it out or shortening the barrel, you will have a wider spread as a result.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Zig-zagged. The book doesn't count out shotguns entirely, but advises you to prioritize rifles because their effective rage is longer.
  • Shovel Strike: The guide says the Shaolin Spade is a very effective weapon in decapitating zombies from a good distance.
  • Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration: Type I, for the most part: zombies cannot heal and even though Solanum slows decomposition, zombies will gradually continue to rot away until they are reduced to little more than an infirm pile of gore. Nonetheless, they appear to be capable of reanimating after being frozen solid, and continuing to function at oceanic depths that would crush a living man, both of which, according to the author, are enduring mysteries.
  • 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.
  • Suprprisingly Realistic Outcome: Being a book about what to do and what not to due during a zombie outbreak, the guide points out how "obvious" ideas and tactics won't work and will likely get you killed. With Boring, but Practical being the better bet.
    • The police station is naturally going to be swarmed with scared people, and thus an easy target for the undead, while the gun store is naturally going to be overrun with people looking for weapons.
    • As stated in Awesome, but Impractical, weapons like chainsaws and machine guns, while usually lauded as the ultimate anti-zombie weapons would be horribly inefficient. As opposed to lighter and silent weapons, capable of destroying the zombie's brain without attracting more or hindering mobility.
  • Take That!: The intro mentions zombie movies, and suggests that you ignore them, because they're filled with big guns, big men, and unrealistic action sequences... like the Resident Evil film series.
  • 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.
  • The Virus: Solanum.
  • Too Dumb to Live: We'll give the civilians in the documented zombie attacks a pass due to the panic, mass hysteria and difficulty of pulling off a headshot at the best of times, but the section with the French Foreign Legion is definitely this. These are trained soldiers who were under siege in a fairly secure fort for three years, and they never once realised that shooting the zombies in the head would solve the problem.
    • The book has this to say about the possibility of the sexual transmission of Solanum:
    "[...]the nature of Solanum suggests a high danger of infection. Warning against such an act would be useless, as the only people deranged enough to try would be unconcerned for their own safety."
    • The Cossacks who ate the zombie they dug up, even after it had bitten one of them. Of course they die from eating the poisoned flesh.
  • 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.
  • Undead Child: One of the Recorded Attacks concerns a young girl named Ellen, who caught Solanum after receiving an infected blood transfusion, died, reanimated and bit one of the medical personnel. Ellen, along with the infected medic, was then taken to a secret location; her parents were later told she had died and her body had been cremated for "health reasons".
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The Cossack scouts who, after being given shelter by an Asiatic tribe, conquer, enslave, plunder and cannibalize their generous hosts. They get theirs, though.
  • Uninhibited Muscle Power: Why zombies are so strong. It also explains why this is a weakness as well, because using the muscles damages them... and zombies can't self-repair, so the older a zombie is, the weaker it gets.
  • Universal Poison Enemy to All Living Things: Zombie flesh, to the point that the smell of a zombie can be used as a repellent against every animal from every ecosystem, everywhere.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
    • This is how the Romans treated zombie outbreaks. With cold mundane efficiency, like any other job that needed to be done.
    • Also the Zulu nation, who used zombie pit-fights as a rite of passage for young noblemen. The Romans were however the only culture (prior to Max Brooks) to write an actual anti-zombie manual.
    • By the 1950s, one-on-one cage fights with zombies are an extreme sport in some parts of Southeast Asia, called "Devil Dance."
  • Voodoo Shark: In order for the zombies to function like classic Romero zombies, the virus has a wide array of ridiculous secondary effects. For instance, the problems of why the walking corpses aren't devoured by insects and why there isn't a corresponding plague of zombie animals are solved by making the flesh of the infected utterly lethal to everything but only infecting humans. See the Artistic License entries for more examples.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • The 1960 Byelgoransk incident.
      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.
    • The case involving Ellen Aims is just tragic. She needs urgent medical treatment and a blood transfusion after bearing the brunt of a fire at her school that killed 47 others. She gets that much needed transfusion eventually, only to find out the hard way the donor was an infected person after Ellen starts showing symptoms herself. Eventually dying, turning, taking a chunk out of a nearby nurse and both of them then transported to a separate location to be euthanised and cremated.
  • You Can't Kill What's Already Dead: The book mentions that part of the reason why zombies are so dangerous is because their pain receptors have ceased to function, therefore most damage inflicted on them will just be ignored. The only way to stop a zombie completely is to destroy its brain.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Most of the book talks of surviving through small outbreaks, but one section is dedicated to knowing how to survive a "Class-4" outbreak, in a world where zombies have completely overrun humanity.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: