Fiction Reviews

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notes from the Apocalypse

(2011) Steven C. Schlozman, Bantam Press, £12.99, hrdbk, 198pp, ISBN 978-1-593-06787-1

A contagious plague pandemic is fast spreading throughout the World. It causes disorientation, then fever and finally death. But incredibly, after death the corpse can become reanimated with a craving to feed on living flesh. the disease is dubbed ANSD, and the World Health Organisation establishes a research facility on an isolated island where biomedical scientists can attempt to find a cure. Within the crack research team is one Dr Stanley Blum. When the team no longer responds to telecommunication, a follow-up team is sent to find out what happened. Among the documents retrieved are Dr Blum's notes, and here this book, The Zombie Autopsies, are these notes in bound form. With one third of humanity still alive, these notes are an invaluable record of the original team's findings and what happened on the island…

What Schlozman has given us is a neatly, if unconventionally packaged, material that does tell a story as well as any conventional novel. The publishers are to be commended for playing along with the gag by printing a grey background to each page and using a font similar to (neat) handwriting so that the book does look as if it really is an assemblage of photocopied notes. Then there is an introduction and seven appendices in conventional print that provide supporting material which, together with the notes, tells of humanity's (losing) fight against the pandemic. Apparently things have become so desperate that atomic weapons have been deployed against some of the overrun cities and this as triggered what must be the beginnings of a nuclear winter as the skies turn an ashen colour.

The author claims (one cannot be certain in works of fiction) to be a clinician. If you are a life scientist then sadly we do not get that much in the way of real biology; if you are not a scientist then the good news is that there is not much science for you to overcome and what there is is mixed in with throwaway techno-babble that does not get in the way, but simulates authenticity of the picture being portrayed. We do, though, learn that the zombie infectious agent is prion related. One delight are the academic references to one of the appendices. Here some of these are clearly fictitious as the dates for some are after the date of this book's publication. However the journals to which they refer (such as Nature Neuroscience) do exist. (I can see that this is going to be fun when Google gets hold of this book for scanning to go on Google books, as if this spills over into Google Scholar (which does link genuine academic references) there might be contamination of genuine academic records as the Google programs, zombie-like march through the relevant databases.) Furthermore, in addition to the fake references there are a few genuine ones! What larks.

The Zombie Autopsies is bound to be enjoyed by both those who are hard SF aficionados as well as zombie lovers (by which I mean those who indulge in the subgenre of zombie fiction and not some sort of necrophilic variation: perish the thought).

Jonathan Cowie

Elsewhere on this site there is an article on Zombies Before Romero as well as one on Zombies After Romero.

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