On reading: The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

Title: The Living Dead

Author: George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

From the back: It begins with one body. A pair of medical examiners find themselves facing a dead man who won’t stay dead.

It spreads quickly. In a Midwestern trailer park, an African American teenage girl and a Muslim immigrant battle newly-risen friends and family.

On a US aircraft carrier, living sailors hide from dead ones while a fanatic preaches the gospel of a new religion of death.

At a cable news station, a surviving anchor keeps broadcasting, not knowing if anyone is watching, while his undead colleagues try to devour him.

In DC, an autistic federal employee charts the outbreak, preserving data for a future that may never come.

Everywhere, people are targeted by both the living and the dead.

We think we know how this story ends. We. Are. Wrong.

The gist: If you like zombie films and zombie books and zombies in general then you’re almost morally obligated to give this book a go. IT’S A GEORGE A. ROMERO ZOMBIE BOOK FOR GOD’S SAKE. It would be wrong not to, right?

And we could get into the various insights and comparisons to the current states of coronavirus affairs, and how the whole zombie genre is in some ways a satirical reflection of so many facets or our modern world (let alone our modern world in the context of a global pandemic). Or we could get in to just what a damn fine ride this book is.

There is something classic that runs through the bones of this book – whether it’s because of Romero’s involvement, or because of the inclusion of the Hoffmann Archive of survivor interviews, or because it covers so many characters’ experiences of the zombie outbreak and what comes next. Maybe it’s even because of the insight at the end of the book into how the novel came to exist. This book in some ways feels like reading a history book, the history of zombies as seen from the future.

There’s a great range of characters, covering so many sides of society, so many angles on what was important to people in the old world and the new world. There’s fresh slants on the zombie outbreak—a particular scene in a school stands out and is just heart wrenching for reasons you probably won’t predict until you get there. There’s characters who change and grow and some of them die and some of them don’t and you’re never really going to know who’s safe until you hit the last page. And even then, can you really be sure? There’s zombie lore explored and there’s zombie questions raised. The book both complements the Living Dead films and also stands alone.

And you’ve got to tip your hat to Kraus who carefully and respectfully brought the book to life – and you’ve also got to think that it seems like he had a lotta fun doing it, which absolutely comes through in the telling.

Regardless of your taste in zombies, your preferences for zombie lore, this is the sort of book that needs adding to your zombie canon. I said canon, not cannon. What, you have a zombie cannon?

The Living Dead can’t help but be a classic of the genre—if you don’t read it for the fiction, read it for the lore.

Favourite line: Damn, she hated it when good, clean spite got fucked up with admiration.

Read if: You like zombies. It’s a no-brainer. Pardon the pun.

Read with: The Living Dead films ready to watch back to back, on repeat, with a pen and paper for your notes.

Get it: The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

ARC gratefully received from Random House UK, Transworld Publishers—Bantam Press

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