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Voodoo Farming #5 (07/09/09): The Zombie Survival Guide

July 8th, 2009 by Ihmhi

Welcome again to Voodoo Farming: A Not-Quite In-Depth Look At Zombies In Popular Culture.

I’m going to start answering the equivalent of Reader Mail – emails sent to my address ihmhi6@gmail.com and comments posted in VF issues.

In this case, while I will be answering reader mail from the previous issue at the conclusion of this edition, I’m going to address one comment from issue #4:

Captain Scurvy Says:
July 5th, 2009 at 3:15 pm

A book that I really think you will enjoy is The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. You can buy it at most Barnes & Nobles. It describes in all seriousness the best ways to survive a zombie apocalypse, and actually makes a lot of sense. It also gives fictional events where zombies have appeared throughout history.

Oh, if you only knew. I’ve read through this book three times in the last few weeks because I very much intended to write it up for VF. So, here you go! You’re practically clairvoyant, Captain Scurvy.

I’m actually pouring through tons of zombie-related material – games, books, comics, and movies. One of the three games that I’m playing a LOT right now (besides Fortress Forever and Eternal Silence) is a Zombie Game on the PC. Since there’s about five thousand of those I don’t have to worry about spoiling which game it is. (Feel free to take guesses in the comments.) VF is like a part time job, but I enjoy it.

Well, with that all out of the way, let’s get right into The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks.

The Zombie Survival Guide is divided into six sections. They are:

  • The Undead: Myths and Realities
  • Weapons and Combat Techniques
  • On the Defense
  • On the Run
  • On the Attack
  • Recorded Attacks
  • The book is presented like a mix of a survival guide and a military manual. I’ll go over the sections one by one.

    The Undead: Myths and Realities

    This section of the book basically defines a zombie in the TZSG universe. A virus called Solanum is the cause of infection. Animals instinctively run from solanum-infected flesh. Only humans can be transformed into zombies – any infected animals simply die.

    Myths and Realities also covers some of the stuff we know, like aiming for the head. While decapitation is indeed successful, the TZSG Zombie can only be truly killed if the brain is destroyed. If you simply decapitate them, the head keeps chomping along, fruitlessly trying to grab a bite out of the nearest living human.

    This is your standard “slow” movie zombie. Of course, they can be pretty fearsome in their own right. Even if you are completely safe inside a mountain fortress (something covered later in the book), the constant moaning of zombies can drive people insane. At that point, you can get a very dangerous mix of cabin fever and insanity among the other people you are holed up with.

    Classes of outbreak are defined, from Class 1 (a handful of zombies) to Class 4 (worldwide zombie pandemic). You don’t want Class 4 to happen. Class 3 is where the military gets involved. Like, carpet-bombing-whole-cities-just-to-be-sure involved. Class 4 is when they totally screw that up.

    Voodoo Zombies are also addressed. (This particular phrase is actually the inspiration for the name of this series. I would have named it Voodoo Zombies, but there’s apparently a small rock band that has that name and I wasn’t comfortable stealing their thunder.) They are presented as nothing more than myth. In this book’s universe, there is nothing mythological about zombies – it’s all hard science.

    Weapons and Combat Techniques

    This section is quite literal. It tells you the best way to fight zombies.

    One of the core principles of this section (and throughout the book) is to make sure that anything you potentially have in your arsenal is legal. I imagine this is partially to cover the author’s ass, but moreover it’s about actually maintaining your arsenal. You don’t want to get killed in a Class 4 outbreak because the police took away your AK-47 and 10,000 rounds of ammo.

    Speaking of guns, the book advises that you go for rifles. Left 4 Dead this isn’t, friends. When you have a bunch of slow, shambling zombies, you’re going to have time to line up your shots. You don’t want to waste ammo because ultimately you might need to fend them off for several weeks, months, or even years. The more conservative and practical your equipment, the better.

    And as for melee weapons? Machete all the way, baby. Chainsaws can run out of gas. Machetes stay fairly sharp, they’re useful outside of combat, and the military-grade machetes are tough as all hell.

    Regrettably, they did not at any point address strapping a lawnmower to your chest and becoming a human blender.

    On The Defense

    This section lays out all of the things you need to do to survive in one place for extended periods of time. It’s split into three subsections: The Private Residence (Defending Your Home), Public Spaces, and The Fortress.

    If you have the funding and inclination to do so, the book suggests that you work on purchasing a tract of land far, far away from civilization. The further away, the better.

    This falls to simple logic – the more people in an area, the more potential zombies. You’re going to come up against way more zombies in NYC than in the Ozarks.

    Aside from the whole “barricade everything and shoot zombies” portion, this part of the book is practically sound for surviving a real “The world has gone completely to shit” situation. I definitely enjoyed this one the most.

    On The Run

    On the Defense stipulates that no matter how strong your current hideout is, you’re going to want to have an escape route planned. Bags and weapons ready should be ready by the door, and you should have a planned destination. (Again, the further away from civilization, the better!)

    Cars and bicycles are a big no-no. Ultimately, they end up being a bigger burden then they are a benefit. The book advocates forced caution – you’re more likely to be careful about where you’re sleeping for the night if you don’t have a car to pass out in. Waking up with a horde of zombies surrounding your vehicle pretty much means your screwed, especially if most of your firepower is in the trunk.

    Go on foot and away from civilization. A group of 4-8 people is ideal, and remember that you only move as slow as your slowest person. Hopefully, you’ll be able to discover some sort of large holdout of survivors (likely run by the military, paramilitary, or law enforcement). If not, then you’re going to have to head out somewhere relatively safe and get to work on building a life from scratch.

    On The Attack

    Even if you establish a base of operations, most people have this thing about just staying holed up in a castle for the rest of their lives. They want to take the fight to the enemy. That’s natural, and this section is for those kind of people.

    Having a base of operations isn’t necessary per se, but it’s very important. This guarantees that you’ll have a safe place to calm down and sleep for the night, and if you have to fall back you’re sure to have somewhere to fall back to. Radio communcation is helpful – nigh, paramount – so your hunters can stay in contact with the people back at base.

    Very few zombie movies actually cover this perspective. Most of the time, people are on the defense – just trying to get from one place to another, just trying to survive. This is where the book deviates from the vast majority of zombie popular culture, and it’s probably one of the most interesting parts out of them all.

    Living In An Undead World

    This is the second worst situation to being dead yourself. Undead outnumber living. The world’s governments and militaries are either in shambles or holed up in mountain bunkers, and it’s every man for themself. You’re not just going to have to rebuild your life – you’re going to have to rebuild civilization.

    This is On The Defense 2.0 – planning to stay in one area – preferably a carefully constructed (even if improvised) fortress for many months – possibly many years or decades.

    One of the principle issues with zombies in this universe is that while they can not swim they can walk across the ocean floor. They do not need to breath and are largely immune to the elements save one (discussed next). An island might seem like a safe place, but one day you could wake up to a bunch of zombies popping out of the water, Normandy style.

    Ice is also an issue. Zombies can and will get frozen in harsh, cold weather. A blizzard might freeze up some zombies for a few days – you might think you’ve got them all, but there’s really several hundred just waiting to thaw out. The worst places are further up north. The harsh winters of Siberia or Canada will mean that every spring thaw brings the threat of more zombies heading in your direction.

    When it comes to games, I’m a highly defensive player. I loved the detail in this section and it is hands down the favorite in my book. In an apocalypse situation, I’d be the first person to try and establish a long-term base of operations so we can maintain some semblance of civilization.

    All in all, this book is a damn good read. I am a skeptic by nature, and while I disregard the existence of zombies I do believe that some sort of biological pandemic could present what is essentially the same situation as a zombocalypse.

    If you like reading through military manuals and learning all kinds of cool shit (like I do), if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, or if you’re just a fan of zombie culture, this book is absolutely for you. Pick it up, read it, learn from it, and enjoy it.

    And if the world does go to hell, you’re most welcome at Fort McAwesome.

    Reader Mail:

    Voodoo Farming #4

    Woodlandowl Says:
    July 2nd, 2009 at 5:06 am

    This made my day, i’m a media student so all these videos were really intresting to watch.
    Also am enjoying the Voodoo farming, I went out and brought Half life Opposing force on your recomendation. Greatly amusing.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the videos. I appreciate most of them on the artistic level – the way the videos use all of the cool special effects and cinematography. I like most of the songs there (I’m definitely a metalhead), but the videos are what the list was all about.

    Minty Says:
    July 2nd, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Normally I wouldn’t use Skippy’s List for this kind of thing, but given today’s post, I thought it appropriate.

    Anyone in the (easily accessible) Seattle area–tomorrow night, Fremont is hosting a Zombie Walk.

    I always thought a Zombie Walk would be fun, but to be honest I would do a bit of an unconventional one. I would have a Zombie Walk that included survivors – a bunch of people in raggedy clothes (with mock blood and all) shooting nerf guns and dropping B-movie quotes (“You ain’t gonna munch on MY brains, sucker!”).

    Sequoia reply
    on July 5th, 2009 9:30 pm:

    [The Zombie Survival Guide] contradicts itself, contains several logical fallacies and a whole plethora of downsides. Me, my friends and I have gone through it multiple times, editing it, coming up with better strategies, etc. Entertaining book, yet flawed.

    I’d love to hear about what you and your buddies considered downsides about the book. I enjoyed it very much and I believed it to be very solid. Then again, you have the advantage of having had many pairs of eyes go over it, so you’ve one-upped me on that front. Toss me an e-mail, I’d love to hear about it!

    I hope you guys have been enjoying VF. Stay tuned until next week. I’m going to review that game that I’ve been playing a lot lately. Super awesome bonus points to the individuals who figure out what it is in the comments.

    Ihmhi is a developer for Fortress Forever, a free, fast paced Team Fortress mod for Half-Life 2.

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    22 Responses to “Voodoo Farming #5 (07/09/09): The Zombie Survival Guide”

    1. Stickfodder Says:

      I’ve had this book for a few years now and I love it but one thing I’ve had a problem with since the beggening is the name of the virus “Solanum” that’s because Solanum is a genus of plant.
      It includes plants like potatoes and tomatoes.

      And Sequoia I think that I and many other people here would love to hear some of the things you and your friends have come up with.


    2. schwal Says:

      Also worth a read is “World War Z, and oral history of the zombie war” also by Max Brooks. It is basicaly a bunch of interviews with survivors, and especaly cool in the audiobook version, with many well known actors as the inteviewees.

      CAPTCHA: 64 vials. lets hope that number never goes down.


    3. Gopblin Says:

      Well, I loved his point about a .22 being more useful than a military rifle. Zombies are ridiculously easy to kill, so the primary factor is how much ammo you have/can carry.

      500 rounds of “sniper” size ammo (7.62×51, x54R, etc) is about the max weight, whereas you can easily carry several thousand rounds of .22. Not to mention recoil turning your shoulder into bloody jelly after a couple hundred shots from a military sniper.

      Otherwise, the book is moderately realistic.

      I laughed at the part about machineguns not being capable of accurate fire and hence being useless, although I do agree that grenades probably won’t do much good. The idea that a bicycle would be more useful than a 4-wheel drive is ridiculous too.

      Of course, the most unrealistic assumption of all is that humans will not wipe zombies out in a matter of weeks – humans have triumphed against all sorts of wild animals before, many of which were tougher/faster/smarter than a zombie.


    4. Sequoia Says:

      Seeing as how it was my friend’s book and I don’t have it in front of me, and it was several months ago, I can only clearly remember one issue. First, it says nearly all zombies can’t climb. Then later when talking about traveling on a boat to not drop the anchor, for all zombies who find it will climb up the line and then proceed to eat you. WTF? But you just said they can’t climb… And it talked about shotguns not being useful for killing zombies. Once again, WTF? Sure, the shotgun isn’t a headshot gun, but it mows down hordes of the undead, then allowing you to be able to destroy the zombie heads at your leisure, especially if they are slow moving shambling zombies instead of the speedy bastards of L4D.
      And as CPL Ted Bronson said in reply to my comment you put up there (which was sorta cool, not going to lie) it isn’t for the already initiated, it is for the novice instead of those who have been preparing for ages (like me and my friends have).

      PS Is the game Plants Vs Zombies?


      Captain Scurvy reply on July 9th, 2009 7:34 pm:

      I don’t know about the climbing thing, but as for the shotqun, only the headshot is leathal to TZSG zombies, and they don’t really care about a couple rounds of buckshot anywhere else. You want to pick a gun that will take them down for sure first shot, and preferably at distance. Plus you don’t usually want to stick around playing weed-whacker with a bunch of undead-heads, as the gunshots are likely to draw more zombies.


      Lokim8 reply on July 10th, 2009 1:02 am:

      Ever been clay target shooting? The targets are smaller than a human head and moving rather quick. If you can hit and destroy a clay target why not a zombie’s head? If the zombie is within 20m or so a shotgun is a perfectly viable weapon. Added to this you may well have to kill stuff other than zombies. You can shot a decent sized bore with a 22 all you like it is going to keep coming. However, I must agree a 22 is going to be the most efficent weapon in a zomboclypse.

      The answer: 22 rifle, 22 pistol and a high caliber pistol or revolver.


      Sequoia reply on July 10th, 2009 10:04 am:

      I have been clay target shooting, twice. Needless to say I’d need practice, but I could definitely shoot a zombies head with a shotgun. My argument was in FAVOR of the shotgun.


      Captain Scurvy reply on July 10th, 2009 2:51 pm:

      Although a human skull is slightly less fragile than a clay pidgeon, so penetrating one at 65 feet becomes less likely. I would much prefer a high-powered rifle to a shotgun, or 22. They are effective over a much longer distance and do considerably more damage, unless you are at point blank range in regards to the shotgun. I suppose a shotgun wouldn’t be too bad at close range, but I would only take a sawed-off one, or saw of a hunting shotgun, so as to reduce weight and space, and make it easier to whip around and blast a zombie sneaking up behind me.


      Captain Scurvy reply on July 11th, 2009 5:33 am:

      Although it would be better just to use a machete or other long cutting implement. They don’t run out of ammo, and they have many other uses as well

      CPL Ted Bronson reply on July 10th, 2009 3:42 am:

      Firstly; thanks for the nod. Secondly, in reference to the Zombies climbing or not (and this is just a way to justify it in my mind, not a “defense”) I think that it might be possible for them to climb in water seeing as how the water would make them lighter. No to mention whatever gases that have built up internally due to decompisition that might aid that bouyancy. The not climbing on land makes sense because they’d lack the coordination to pull it off, but the climbing in water is at least plausible; you’d only need half as much coordination when you weigh half as much.


      Captcha: rangers 18 – I thought it only took 2 or 3
      of those guys…


      Sequoia reply on July 10th, 2009 5:31 pm:

      But moving through water is much more difficult than in air, for water (density of 1 g/cm^3) is MUCH denser than air (density of 1.2 kg/m^3 [or 1200 g/m^3]).


      CPL Ted Bronson reply on July 11th, 2009 3:18 am:

      True; no arguing that math. But if you want to run numbers, you have to factor both sides of the coin. Water is indeed far denser than air, but it’s also far more buoyant. Buoyancy, is by definition, “the upward force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object”. Since water weighs more than air, it’s more buoyant, BECAUSE it’s denser. And let’s not forget that this is all just speculation for shits and grins…

      Great time though…

      Captcha: burrow base – even Captcha wants us to start preparations…

      Sequoia reply on July 10th, 2009 10:06 am:

      And don’t even get me going on the desert tactics. Traveling through day, HUMPH *shakes head in a disgusted manner*!


    5. Billy Says:

      What all of these fail to notice is one more type of zombie, a more likely type in fact, that would be much more difficult to kill than your standard brain zombie. The spine zombie. Most of your bodily actions that turn into instince ect, is in your spinal column, which is why if you cut a chickens head off it runs around for a while still. With that information, it stands to reason that a real zombie would probably have all of its motion put into is spine, and less into its brain, making them harder to kill with guns, and will catch most people by suprise as most people would base their stradegies off of old zombie movies.


    6. Billy Says:

      Another thing that is forgotten in this is the immediate reaction to zombies. How to tell if that guy is a zombie, or just really weird, as if you guess wrong, you could either be arrested, or zombie food. Also, you have to keep in mind your surroundings and actions if that guy turns out to be a zombie, for instance, if you are at work, you need to know what weapons nearby are good against zombies. And, if you clear your workplace of zombies, how to get to the nearest fortress(of any type)to get food/ammo. With this in mind, we need to start getting big, tough vehicles and stop with the “environmentally-friendly-throw-away-if-you-crash” cars. Trucks are your best option to get to diffrent places due to the blunted front, and off road capabilities to get to your grocery store to grab food, gun store to get ammo/weapons, and then to get to the most fortified building you can find.


      HardNose reply on July 9th, 2009 9:06 pm:

      Not to mention that you can get a lot more into the 8ft x 5ft bed of a truck than in your typical car…


    7. Minty Says:

      RE last Friday’s Zombie Walk. . .

      The Fremont area in Seattle shows movies throughout the summer, and every year, right before they show Shaun of the Dead, they host a Zombie Walk. This year, it was heavily publicized because they wanted to break the world record for the most Zombies to congregate in the same place (which, by the way, they did).

      In addition to the near-5000 Zombies, there were quite a few Zombie Hunters that showed up. One of them made his “valiant” stand in front of the statue of Lenin, and was promptly devoured. Sadly, I can’t give you a blow-by-blow, because I was sitting at Lenin’s base not two feet away from where it happened, and I couldn’t see through the rotting legs. The girl drooling fake blood who started the attack looked pretty cool, though.


    8. Leon Says:

      Zombie game on a PC? Gotta be L4D. If you’re doing solo play and want a challenge, up the max zombie spawns to 300, set it for permanent panic event and then trigger it. Now that’s a zombie rush.

      Captcha: speeds peated – what I did the first time I saw a tank in L4D


    9. Captain Scurvy Says:

      YESSSSS!!! *pumps arms in frantic celebration* This is the first time anything I have done has gone up on this site. It makes me feel tingley.

      Also, in addition to the book, there is a YouTube video, the GMOD Zombie Survival Guide. It is a funny video based on the book done in stop motion on Gary’s Mod for Half-Life 2, incidentally.


      I’ve e-mailed this to Skippy a couple times, but apparently his mailbox is too cluttered.


    10. Killiara Says:

      This book gave me nightmares the first time I read it. That said, it’s a good, solid book. The only part that hurt my brain was suggesting travelling during the day in the desert. That… depends on the time of year, and what desert, honestly. Movement between 10am and 4pm in the summer? Um.. no. just… no. Dude aint a desert dweller.

      As per the reccomendation earlier to read World War Z? I’d second that. It’s the stories of survivors from a level 4 outbreak in the same world as the survivors guide.


      Sequoia reply on July 11th, 2009 3:17 pm:

      Yeah, his desert scheme is a good way to roast to death. You travel by night if you want to live. Obviously he never read Dune.


    11. ThandraK Says:

      I’m going to guess that it is not L4D, but rather a cheery little thing involving Plants.

      (decay National. Well, that fits.)


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