The Brain Eater's Bible: Sound Advice for the Newly Reanimated Zombie
by J.D. McGhoul with Pat Kilbane
Cover Artist: Brain diagram and blood by Shutterstock
Review by April Disney
St. Martin's Griffin Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250024015
Date: 02 October 2012 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The zombie apocalypse has come. The PACE virus, transmittable through saliva, is now rampant; the rule of law has broken down, and it's each man for himself. Pat Kilbane tells his story through an alternating how-to manual and journal entries both written by his alter-ego, J.D. McGhoul, which allows the reader to piece together how the apocalypse came to be. It's a wild ride through postmodern absurdity, and is compulsively readable.
What makes this short read successful is that it stuck with me when I wasn't reading it, and after it was finished. The idea of our species being hunted - for whatever reason - is disturbing enough, but reading about someone who used to be human himself discuss the best ways to eat human brains and hunt humans down goes beyond that. Each chapter was like a horror show; turning the page seemed like a bad idea but, like a bad car wreck, you just have to look.
The addition of scientific speculation in the form of an anatomy lesson, a firearm and melee combat lesson, and discussions on zombie society vs. human society is a bold stroke by the author. It gives zombies human qualities and forces the reader to relate to the confusion of waking up in undeath and trying to find your way in a chaotic new world. The fact that this zombie in particular has maintained his intellect and is self-aware is both fun and terrifying.
The best thing going for this piece is also the worst: I actually felt myself become slightly ill at certain points. From the point of view of a zombie, it is true that, like any other living thing, survival is the number one priority. Knowing that you need human brains to survive and preferring to be the hunter rather than the hunted makes sense. I feel it was taken too far in this case, though. A creature like Mr. McGhoul, who obviously values intelligence, doesn't seem the type to choose his "slow" brothers and sisters which are 99% of the zombie population over the intelligent mass of humanity. Yet there is not a single scratch of empathy towards his ex-species in his character. Was he a bad man even before he turned? A look from the eyes of another intelligent zombie might give some more idea about how the PACE virus changes a person.
Another down side was that the zombies themselves had one purpose: to eat human brains. McGhoul does mention in his journal that, if they couldn't manage to farm people for their harvest, he wasn't sure what would happen once all the humans were gone. Most people like to think that the next step above us in the food chain has an even higher mind capacity and more fulfilling reason for existence than just eating brains - or that we ourselves will cause the catastrophe leading to our demise. Though it could be argued that, because the PACE virus was created by humans, that is indeed the case here.
I am torn on how to rate this book. There are many good things to say about it. I never understood why people feared a zombie apocalypse. It certainly seems an absurd idea. However, the idea of intelligent, super strong zombies, along with the scientific plausibility Kilbane throws into his work, has made me look at it in a different light. In that sense, the author has done his job well. It may also be that, despite the numerous positive reviews out there, I just personally can't find the humor in the subject matter. Therefore, I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the zombie apocalypse- especially the plausibility of the idea - or to anyone who likes dark absurdism.