Monday, July 5, 2010

Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies

Nathan Robert Brown, Penguin Australia, 2010

Information manuals of the type published under both the Complete Idiot's Guide and For Dummies imprints tend to be a mixed bag. The best of these guides typically assume that the reader knows exactly nothing about the topic, and therefore cover in great detail every last snippet of information pertaining to that subject. This is obviously a boon for readers who genuinely know little about the topic, but is ideally also of interest to those with more expertise, as the encyclopedic nature of the guide ensures that any minor gaps in the expert's knowledge will be filled. Unfortunately, there are also guides that merely provide the most basic overview of a given topic, which means those with expertise will find little of interest therein, while those with patchy knowledge gain little than a passing insight into the topic, requiring them to seek out further references should they wish to gain a fuller understanding.

Unfortunately, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies largely falls into the latter category. While the guide certainly scores points for attempting to document all aspects of the zombie phenomenon - from their origins in folklore and evolution through cinema, to their wholesale takeover of popular culture via comics, books, gaming and toys - the size of the publication (a mere 230-odd pages in A5 format) restricts the author to a fairly cursory examination of any of these aspects. To be fair, this guide does delve into several areas of zombie culture that I've not seen discussed in other 'serious' zombie references - such as the Zombie Survivalist movement - which in my book does make this guide worth reading. However, for a far more complete and satisfying examination of much of the material listed in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies, I'd point enthusiasts to David Flint's Zombie Holocaust, Jonathan Maberry's Zombie CSU, or Bob Curran's Zombies: A Field Guide to the Walking Dead.

I should also mention that my intellectual investment in the guide was seriously undermined when, in the chapter entitled 'Zombies in Recent Literature', the author listed his own little-known (as far as I'm aware) series of zombie novels alongside a mere half-dozen other examples of zombie fiction, the other books listed all being seminal cult and/or blockbuster titles.

In a nutshell, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies is worth a flick-through for obsessive fans of the walking dead, and - at around only AU$20 - is, at least, unlikely to leave too many readers feeling as though they've not received value for money.