501 Things to do with a zombie
Author(s): J.C. Richards (Illustrated by Aaron Waite)
Publisher: Adams Media
Publication Date: 2010
This ‘what to do in a world with the undead’ activity book is in the comedy / novelty domain and aims to give us, the usually anti-zombie brigade a new perspective on the flesh-eating ghouls and to no longer see them as the undead but rather (in the words of our very own Zombie Ed on the front cover) as the FUNdead. However, first let me set the scene, as you may have guessed this book is set in an already zombie infested world and comes with a liability disclaimer from the author stating that although all suggestions had been successfully tested that they accept no responsibility if it goes wrong. Imitate these suggestions at your own peril people.
The introduction is well written and pleads with us to remember that zombies were people too and now they just have a few social ‘issues’, don’t we all? This rally call tells us to imagine a world where instead of fleeing from the living dead that instead we embrace them as our new sidekicks. After all “what’s more fun, planning an escape route from a zombie – or a trip to Disney with one?’. This statement got my mind racing and several humorous situations popped into my mind. The big question is can the book live up to what I believe it has promised?
Sadly no, what we do get is a literal list of 501 things we could do with a zombie. Well that is not strictly true as some are repeated (‘go on google’ is in there three times), some are reworded (solve a crossword puzzle, solve a word puzzle, solve a word problem) and some are crossed out, although some of these actually brought a smile to this old critic, for example taking your zombie to the mall was deemed a no-no by the author (we all know what havoc they can cause there).
There we have it that is the plot of the book. It can be argued that the author has delivered exactly what the title promised although there is so much more that can be done. From reading through, if one can call it that, the monotonous list got slightly stale by around the 100th suggestion however there was one very good reason to continue. The illustrations are both very good and very funny and it would have been nice to see more of them as they had the appearance of a black and white newspaper skit with the odd piece of almost ‘zombie-social satire’ and, perhaps unintentionally – especially as they are based on the suggestions – provide more humour and enjoyment than the written word rather than complementing it.
I feel that as well as featuring more illustrations, the author spread himself too thinly by trying to cover too many suggestions (which as noted started to repeat) and rather could have benefited from maybe 101 things to do but with a short paragraph about their findings from the scientific tests….What happened? How did the zombie react? Maybe even include a few anecdotes about the suggestions that went wrong? This would engage the reader a lot more and provide a greater vehicle for the comedy style (and lets not forget this is a comedy not a horror book) of the author.
As you my dear reader may have gathered this is a book full of potential but not fully realised and although the suggestions got tiresome quite quickly overall there are enough funny statements and pictures to make this worthwhile. Although I could not claim that this is addictive reading, I did look forward to seeing the next zombie illustration and rather unfairly felt a little twang of disappointment when certain suggestions (such as the kissing booth one) were not illustrated but this is testament to the quality that is sometimes shown in the book.
Zombie Fear Factor: *
It is hard to be scared of a zombie eating on a build-a-bear or dressed up in 80s gear sporting a Flock of Seagulls haircut but perhaps that’s the zombies plan overall. Catch us when our guard is down, time will tell on this one. If I have been devoured by said 80s zombie down my local Reflex bar then please add 4 more stars to the score.
Zombie Behaviour: *
From the authors scientific tests the zombies seem remarkably subdued, so much so that you actually can perform these tasks at minimal risks. Although noted that they crave brains (either that of human or animal) the reports of them being so single minded in this pursuit are greatly exaggerated.
Zombie Threat: *
Although they will eat your brains when you sleep they will also help you with crosswords, go online or maybe even be your dance partner (assuming their limbs do not fall off before the end of the song). No threat here I am afraid.
Gore Content: *
The illustrations are nice with a fair few pictures of limbs falling off but this is where it ends. However, this book is not about gore and it may perhaps be unfair to judge it on this content.
Overall Quality: *
This is a book of potential. On the one hand we have very good illustrations and layout (the flecks of blood on certain pages was a nice touch I appreciated) and some witty suggestions and an obvious interest in the undead by both contributors countered by repetitive ‘things to do’ and a feeling of a project half completed.
By reading the introduction and the back page print, it really promises something that it doesn’t deliver and this is the big shame. As what it promises us could, potentially, be a top zombie comedy book but instead turns out to be more like a rough first draft of ideas. This could be highlighted with my opinion that even this review has more words than the book (Ed can we assign someone to do a word-off to check this fact?).
It is also worth noting that this is a book suitable for everyone from the young to the old to the deceased and the language reflects that however the big question is would I buy this book? Honestly, not for myself but I would buy it as a gift (and obviously would like to receive it as a gift) and this is for those reasons I have just stated. Hopefully the author reads this and revises with witty anecdotes about what happened in the scientific experiments and more illustrations and then I could say that may be up there with the books by Brooks. As a gift for that zombie maniac in your life I would happily recommend this as a modern piece of throwaway literature that would entertain and possibly inspire you….right I am off to draw my own comical zombie situations.