"The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead" Book Review
Written by Nick Redfern and Brad Steiger
2014, 367 pages, Reference
Book released on September 9th, 2014
The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead by Nick Redfern and Brad Steiger is a catchall tome for anything vaguely associated to the topic of death. Luckily that's not all, as there is plenty of coverage for things completely unrelated to this broad subject, much less the titular zombie. The central problems of this book are the title and the layout. I approached this collection expecting a bunch of movie reviews, silly puns (like Rob Zombie) and possibly a serious look at voodoo. Maybe there would be interviews with prominent scientists (Wade Davis) or filmmakers (George A. Romero) to expand on the fact and fiction of the living dead. Surely there would be exhaustive coverage of The Walking Dead television program, right? Not so fast, kid.
Regardless of the name, this book is all over the place in terms of content. Entries appear alphabetically and receive a generally brief synopsis – though some are more thorough than others – but there is not a discernible set of guidelines. Case in point: the first subject covered in the book is for AIDS, and while there is some weak connection drawn for all medical epidemics, it is unfortunate the authors chose to link a very serious disease with a zombie outbreak. Similarly, the “Miracle of the Andes” is redubbed the “Andes Cannibals”, and the survivors of a plane crash are reduced to the glorification of their most desperate actions to stay alive. Low marks as well for the chapter on all things starting with the letter “A,” which includes coverage of how ants were an inspiration for the builder mentality of zombies in the film version of World War Z (rather than dropping this nugget under the film synopsis in “W”).
Some subjects have absolutely nothing to do with Zombies or the Living Dead, including the odd inclusion of the military practice of writing Biblical phrases on weaponry, known as “Armageddon”. The London Underground is given its own section because it was the setting for a particular film or story and may or may not house cannibals. Famed scientist Wade Davis did amazing research on the practical side of voodoo that led to the creation of a powerful anesthetic drug (his work inspired the film The Serpent and the Rainbow). Davis is mentioned several times throughout the book and even appears in a photograph, but does not receive his own entry, either under his name or the film.
Skipping over to the movies that are covered here, there's just as much confusion in the layout. Oddly, the section on actor John Carradine begins with coverage of the zombie films in which actor Ving Rhames has appeared before moving on to Carradine. Classic titles like Romero's Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead are given extensive summaries that spoil the entire plot, including the ending, but are filled with enough incorrect information (character names, locations, etc.) that I question the reliability of the entries for lesser-known titles. A film like The Dead 2 barely gets a sentence, which suggests that it was not actually released before this book went to press, while the entire Return of the Living Dead franchise is ignored – not so much a sin for the sequels, but at least give the original a paragraph! The Walking Dead however does receive ample coverage.
Determined readers may want to sift through the nonsense in order to get to some legitimate entries (burial practices, cemeteries, cannibalism), but even this material is marred. Instead of writing one main article and cross-referencing it (Cattle Mutilations: see also Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Mad Cow Disease) back through similar titles, each irrelevant offshoot receives its own section. It is impossible to recommend this title to even casual fans of the genre, as the sloppy structure is more frustrating than it is worth. Hopefully this book will stay buried on the shelf, far out of the reach of readers looking for a treat.