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Book Review: The Zombie Combat Manual
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The Zombie Combat ManualThe Zombie Combat Manual
A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead
Paperback | Kindle
by Roger Ma
Berkley Trade
Release Date: April 6, 2010

Sooner or later we’re going to be faced with the zombie apocalypse. It’s gonna happen folks. They’re coming to get you Barbara, or Bob, or Philippe, or whatever. The warning signs are everywhere, and the success of The Walking Dead is just the latest. One of these days you’re going to be in your backyard relaxing in a hammock with a tall, cool glass of fresh lemonade, the warm summer air and the serene peacefulness of the day lulling you into an afternoon nap, when all of a sudden a horde of the flesh-crazed undead will come busting through your fence (which you just painted after the wife had been nagging at you all week to get it done…. damn it) howling and drooling and ready to take a chomp out of your worthless hide. They’re dead, they’re all messed up, you know? Now you have but only a few seconds to respond, so what do you do? Risk becoming either a meal for an army of slobbering, shambling corpses or perhaps become one of them, or you get up off your ass and take the matter into your own hands?

Don’t you know what’s going on out there? There is no Sunday school picnic goddamnit! Whatever your decision may be, it would help to have a copy of Roger Ma‘s The Zombie Combat Manual at your side. When the stinking cesspool of Hades starts cracking down on their admission policy, your life just might depend on it. Die, or survive…. your call.

I’m a huge fan of zombie movies; I’ve seen just about all of the great ones, most of the good ones, and even a few of the bad ones. The Walking Dead recently became one of my new favorite shows. What can I say? I just love those mad bastards who desire nothing more than to eat the meat off our bones like barbecue. They’re probably the most relatable monsters in horror mainly because they’re us. They’re shells of our former selves, stripped of anything resembling individuality, and driven purely by instinct. Of all possible horror movie scenarios that could be dreamed of a zombie plague spreading across the globe is the only one I could actually see happening. It just so happens, we’re halfway to being a society of the walking dead anyhow.

Much like actual zombies the horror sub-genre midwifed by George Romero and passed through the hands of various loving parents and schizophrenic babysitters (mostly the Italians) can’t be easily put down. You can put a bullet in its leg, chop its limbs off, and gouge out both its eyes, but until fright fans and gore groupies hungry for the thrill of the kill unite as one entity armed with a sawed-off quadruple-barreled shotgun and turn that undead sucker’s brain into cranial tartar, the zombie genre will continue its slow, flesh-starved march into our hearts, and eventually our gastrointestinal systems.

Without spoiling any of the book before you have a chance to read it for yourself, let me just say this: The Zombie Combat Manual is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read so far this year and it may be the best book about the living dead since Max Brooks’ World War Z. In fact, I could see a strong influence by Brooks on Roger Ma’s writing.

Ma’s book is structured like a handbook on fighting your way through an outbreak of zombies, but also adds in interviews with survivors of a fictional plague in the form of “Combat Reports.” The book kicks off with a section devoted to dissecting myths and falsehoods about zombies, which is a good place to start since by doing this Ma is replacing traditional zombie clichés with a mythology all his own but told in stark, simple language and without the slightest hint of pretension. After all, we’re here to have some fun, right? If not you might as well unlock your barricaded front door, sprinkle some seasoning on your ass, and ring the dinner bell, because if you can’t have fun during an invasion of zombies, when in the hell can you have fun?

From there he proceeds to examine the anatomy of the common zombie and how it can used to your advantage (my favorite part being the fact that a zombie with a full head of hair can be difficult to kill with a blow to the skull), describes how to prepare yourself physically and psychologically for an outbreak, outlines the best weapons to use in case of an encounter with a zombie, and provides a detailed breakdown of the best combat techniques and maneuvers to use when there’s an army of undead, walking maggot feasts who only have eyes for you, and not in a romantic sense.

The Combat Reports sections are the ones that bring World War Z to mind the most for me. It’s interesting to get the human perspective in this apocalypse of the slobbering dead. I loved reading about the Shaolin monk who marched into battle with a horde of the undead alongside many of his believers; a dentist who develops a fiendish device for examining zombie molars called the “Tommy” that would make David Cronenberg wince; and the manager of a super-store who can testify first-hand about the lengths people will go to in order to avoid death at the hands of the undead. The technical sections of the book resemble the instruction guide for a role playing game, with weapons and other tools you could employ in fighting off zombies rated for their usefulness and amount of times you can use them. This would be a great handbook for devising your own zombie-themed RPG, if you’re into that sort of thing (which I’m not). The book’s cover even feels like an authentic survival manual someone would carry in a backpack as they cut a swath through the United States of Zombieland. Dog ear a few pages and the resemblance is uncanny.

Reading The Zombie Combat Manual got me to wondering if I myself could be a badass zombie-killin’ survivor in a world overrun by the snacking dead. Roger Ma understands that the key to making a successful piece of satire is to approach the patently absurd premise with a straight face; I would actually recommend this book to anyone in the event that the dead start crawling out of their graves and attacking the living. Ask yourself this: would you nut up, or shut up? According to the book, I would be considered an Endocombatant because I’m a pretty big guy but I’ve got a lot of power behind my hits. It’s good to know that if I was a character in a zombie story, I most likely wouldn’t make it to the end but I’d come pretty close.

The Zombie Combat Manual is an essential read for all you zombie fanatics out there. Roger Ma did a fantastic job with this book and I’m eager to see what he cooks up for his next one. I highly recommend this book.

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