You can iImagine my delight when I heard that Max Brallier – author of the cult classics Reasons to Smoke, Reasons to Drink, and The All-Star Bathroom Sampler – was releasing a decidedly adult choose-your-own-adventure revolving around a zombie outbreak entitled Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?.
The book begins with you as a twenty-something, white-collar cubicle dweller working in Manhattan. It’s Monday morning and you’re still a little hung over from the weekend, jonesing for Krispy Kremes and stuck in some mind-numbing corporate meeting. Suddenly, a panicked secretary comes storming in and tells everyone that they need to turn on the TV. It seems patients are rioting in Mount Sinai Hospital – just 20 blocks away – and killing staff members. But when you witness the bloody nightmare unfolding on television, you understand instantly what’s really happening: it’s a zombie outbreak and within hours New York City will be an undead Hell on Earth. “You sit in your stupid uncomfortable chair, stunned, unable to move. Words dance around your brain along with images from comics and movies – and then finally you blurt out, to no one in particular, ‘Zombies. Zombies…ZOMBIES! THE LIVING F@CKING DEAD!’”
What do you do?
“If you think your best chance of getting out of the city is via taxi, turn to page 204.
If you want to jog the twelve blocks and two avenues to the Seventy-second Street subway and catch the next train to Brooklyn, turn to page 205.
If you want to get back to your apartment ASAP, turn to page 22.”
What ensues next is nothing short of a zombie fiction lover’s dream. The various storylines are gore-saturated, breakneck paced, action-packed, ill-mannered, vulgar, and insanely entertaining. Depending on which decisions you make, you’ll kill zombies underwater with harpoon guns near the Statue of Liberty, be attacked by the undead New York Knicks inside of Madison Square Garden, or join up with the Hells Angels and help them rid the Empire State Building of zombies – and chances are good that most decisions you make will lead to your death. But if you are lucky enough to make it to The End – I died dozens of times before figuring it out – you will be rewarded by the ultimate zombie homage, an ending to end all zombie fiction stories. (It’s just brilliant. Bravo, Max Brallier.)
Reading this novel is like being thrown into a video game – it’s an unapologetically intense experience with unforgettable characters and adrenaline-inducing adventures around every turn. There is a drug dealer named Matty (aka the Ardle) who is growing his own kind in an apartment in your building. If you choose to stay with him, he can do bongs twenty four/seven and play Madden from a beach chair on the roof of your apartment building while the world crumbles around you. Yakuma is a jaw-droppingly beautiful, samurai swords-wielding exotic dancer whose killing moves on the stripper pole are the stuff of legends. You might even meet your high school crush, the captain of the cheerleading team, and get a chance to rescue her…
There are weapons everywhere – swords, grenade launchers, chainsaws, nail guns, morning stars, submachine guns, tanks, even Babe Ruth’s historic bat!
The splatterific backdrop of blood and brains are a constant throughout but Brallier manages to inject some downright hilarious humor along the way. Here are just a few examples:
• When zombies disrupt a Yankees/Red Sox game in New Yankee Stadium, Hank Steinbrenner arrives in a helicopter and yells in a megaphone: “New York Yankees, begin boarding! Long-term contracts first…”
• On your way to the Empire State Building: “You flip up the side mirror on Jones’s Harley. Take a look at yourself. You’re the beautiful bastard child of Snake Plissken and John Rambo…”
There is even a sequence where, if you choose to, you can seek sanctuary inside the Union Square Barnes and Noble! “Have to get inside there. Food. Shelter. Delicious little muffins.”
“Wandering through the store, a display catches your eye – a table with a sign over it that says UNDEAD SUMMER.
Lo and behold, it’s a zombie book promotion. A whole table of them laid out.
World War Z, by Max Brooks
Patient Zero, by Jonathan Maberry
Day by Day Armageddon, by J.L. Bourne
Hater, by David Moody
The New Dead, by a whole bunch of authors
The Walking Dead, a set of beautiful-looking graphic novels
And then some that look particularly helpful:
The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks
The Zombie Combat Manual, by Roger Ma
You grab one of each and limp back to your corner…”
With the release of highly inventive and exceptionally written novels like Feed by Mira Grant, The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer, Dust by Joan Frances Turner, etc. I declared 2010 to be the Year of the Zombie. If Max Brallier’s Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? is any indication, the walking dead will rule 2011 as well…
Bottom line: I loved this book. It's innovative, fun, and wildly entertaining – an undeniable “must-read” for anyone who claims to be a zombie fiction fan.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.