Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Zombie CSU: the Forensics of the Living Dead

Jonathan Maberry, Citadel Press, 2008

Have you ever seriously wondered what would happen if a zombie outbreak were to actually occur?; what agents might cause the reanimation of the dead?; how law-enforcement authorities might investigate a zombie attack?; how the armed forces, media, and society in general would react if the dead walked? If the answer is yes, then you – like myself – obviously have a serious and disturbing obsession, and should definitely secure yourself a copy of Jonathan Maberry’s Zombie CSU.

Zombie CSU begins with a hypothetical scenario: an attack upon a security guard at a medical facility by what eventually turns out to be a reanimated human corpse. From there, Maberry takes us step by detailed step through the procedures the police would follow in order to secure the crime scene, collect and process evidence, identify and track the perpetrator, and make an arrest. Every aspect of the process is carefully detailed; the hard facts of police and forensic procedure (as they would relate to any relevant real-life crime) explained simply and clearly, with the author then tackling ‘the zombie factor’ as an aside, examining how adding the walking dead into the mix might affect the investigation.

As the hypothetical investigation progresses, Maberry backs up his assertions with testimony and opinions from various experts in the field (most of whom appear also to be zombie fans), and continues to do so as the focus moves from the initial crime investigation to such topics as the psychological and spiritual implications of zombies, the legal ramifications of a zombie plague, and effective ways in which to protect yourself from undead flesheaters.

Despite the serious attention to detail in explaining the ‘facts’ of a zombie-related crime, this book is great fun to read; much of the speculative side of things is delivered with a welcome dash of humour, and the narrative of the ongoing investigation is regularly interjected with examples of zombie artwork, opinions from zombie ‘authorities’ (such as Max Brooks, Kim Paffenroth, Rocky Wood, Brian Keene, and others), lists of ‘best-’ and ‘worst-ever’ zombie movies and books, and a running symposium on the ‘Fast Zombies vs Slow Zombies’ debate.

This book will obviously appeal to zombie fans, but should also appeal to those interested in forensics, crime fiction, sociology, psychology, and media studies. There are plenty of surprises in store for the reader (seems the odds of an actual zombie uprising aren’t quite as unlikely as you might think – or wish), and also more than a few chills (the chapter examining plagues, prions, and other agents that might reanimate human corpses I found particularly horrifying). Zombie CSU is likely to become something of a classic in the ‘horror reference’ subgenre. For me, it’s up there with Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, and is similarly a book any genre reader will no doubt return to again and again.

Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead is available from Amazon and selected Australian specialist bookshops.

(Oh, and by the way – the blood-spatter pattern on the book’s cover most likely came from a zombie, not a living person. That’s the sort of invaluable deduction you’ll be able to make after reading Zombie CSU :) )

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