The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

A book review article by: Jamil Scalese


So you find yourself stuck in the middle of a murderous mob of zombies -- What do you do? Well, nothing, at that point you're fucked, but if you bought The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse beforehand you might have had a decent chance at survival.

A mostly prose work, the surprisingly dense book is more nonfiction than fiction. Writers Bud Hanzel and John Olson take the idea of survival in a post-apocalyptic world and get serious about. This literally reads as a How-To, with die-hard rules about what to do when faced with a zombie, what ammo to stock and how to cook a loaf of bread with the bare essentials. The work straddles a very odd tone, from gravely serious and conscientious, to snarky and a bit mean-spirited.  The seesawing might be the result of the co-authorship, and it creates a very real and raw attitude from page one, paragraph one.  Here's how the creative team decided to kick things off:

"It's going to happen ... you know it is. One day, sooner than we expect, something is going to go very wrong. Why should we worry about global warming, economic meltdown, wars in the Middle East, Third World dictators in possession of nuclear weapons, or a bunch of fascist rag-heads whose religion dictates that they kill the infidels (that's us by-the-way. You know, everybody who isn't them), when the true threat to our existence is an event so unspeakably catastrophic that all other human proclivities toward self-destruction pale by comparison. The reality of the ultimate downfall of modern man lies in the veiled truths of the Hollywood machine; small fictional glimpses of an event so frightening that it has to be wrapped in humor for the masses to even look at it."

... the fuck?

Is the best way to start out a book on survival in a zombie-infested landscape? I mean look at that second sentence! There should be a choking hazard across that thing. "Rag-heads?" How did that racial slur make it past editorial? That weird, preachy digression in the middle? The way it's written specifically for Americans? It was at that point I wondered if The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse might end up being on those undiscovered IRL works that become Internet gems. "Holy shit", I thought,  "I've found my own novelization of Back to the Future. I've stuck meme gold!"

Huge disappointment: Olson and Hanzel dial down the crazy. However, there is always a vicious undercurrent to the writing, for example one motif is referring anyone who ends up dying a "crosshair candidate." The gimmick gets old really quick, but never ends. Instead of going off into the deep end and entertaining generations and ruining their good names, the writers end up getting super technical and tactical and lay out a thought-out stratagem.  There is a lot of presumption, but the logic is there are hordes. One thing that bothered me is the idea that zombies don't blink, thus film will build on their eyes and blind them within weeks. Zombies don't blink? Says who?

There is a serious bite to certain sections. While some read very textbook-like, others, like an overview of the types of people you might run into after zombie outbreak, seriously teeter on the line of offensive material. Demographics like emos or cheerleaders are deemed useless on the spot, and stereotypes are associated with just about every person you could meet in B-level horror movie. These sections by themselves would feel a tad satirical, but against the heavily scientific and calculated chapters the facetious comments have a type of false authority. As if the writer's viewpoint is law, and we're "crosshair candidates" for thinking otherwise.

Supplemental artwork is done by Mark Stegbauer, a longtime inker with work in comics you've probably read. His contribution is more than necessary, breaking up the prose and complimenting the various sections with appropriate pictures. Really though, it's just static images, and a few word balloons. No true storytelling is done through panels.

Still, despite all the disconnect I had with the book Hanzel, Olson, Stegbauer and I share an obsession that breaks through the bullshit: shovels.

"A shovel is probably the most useful thing a zombie apocalypse survivor can carry. It's possible uses are endless ... What's more, having a shovel will make you a legend amongst your fellow survivors. After all, anyone who can travel through miles of zombie infested countryside, battle the un-live, wild animals and marauders, face terrors unimagined in the pre-apocalypse world, and still manage to hang onto his shovel is clearly a force to be reckoned with."

No doubt. I had that same thought at one point. So I made it into a webcomic. Hanzel/Olsen continue their love letter to shovels through much of the book (check the cover!), and in fact the entire cooking section predicates having a shovel in tow. Recognize the spade.  (Although the authors need to recognize that a woman can also wield a shovel too.)

This book? Not what I was expecting when it arrived express mail via the great Jason Sacks, for sure. Part analytical, part bat-shit crazy, I kind of wish the book would have committed to one or the other. But what does this reviewer know? After all, he's half "rag-head."


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