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Zombie Literature: The Rise of the Living Dead in Fiction

Updated on November 26, 2013

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

-- From Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Zombie literature may sound terrifying, but it is usually meant to be thought provoking or even comical.
Zombie literature may sound terrifying, but it is usually meant to be thought provoking or even comical. | Source

Zombies in Literature

When you sit back and read Twilight or Interview With a Vampire, you can at least understand the appeal even if you aren't too fond of the story line. Beauty, immortality, wealth, and immense power are truly temptations to bring one into a life of eternal darkness and murder. Even the werewolf with its strength and agility can be made just as sexy as its blood-sucking counterpart. The zombie...not so much. So, with a rise of vampires and werewolves in popular fiction today, how is it possible that something so brain-dead and empty can be just as popular?

Unlike the zombies of the past, today's zombies are more than just walking dead people. They eat flesh, sometimes run at you, and almost always come in immense hordes. It used to be that the fact they were fresh from the grave was creepy enough, now the fact that their grasping hands are coming at you to consume you has brought them to a completely different level.

For many readers and fans, zombies are a warning for a potential future that must be prepared for, in case the dead truly do rise. Others see zombie fiction as a reflection of growing concerns over population growth, a "zombification" of society dependent on drugs and media entertainment, and the possibility of biological warfare. Still more zombie fans enjoy the living dead in fiction simply to satisfy their desire for gore and explosions. Whatever your reasons are for reading zombie literature, there is bound to be a book or two out there that are the perfect read for you.

Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually issued an online Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide. It was so popular, the site actually crashed from the amount of visitors it received.

Your Own Opinion on Zombies

What makes zombies so appealing?

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My sister and her boyfriend last Halloween dressed as zombies as they participate in the zombie craze.
My sister and her boyfriend last Halloween dressed as zombies as they participate in the zombie craze. | Source

Popular Zombie Fiction

Zombie literature is almost as monotonous as the creatures themselves. They usually emerge from a plague of some sort and attack and are pushed back numerous times throughout the tale. However, unlike the other popular monsters of fiction, zombies don't take center stage, which is part of what makes zombie fiction so interesting. Instead of focusing on the inner workings of the killers that are after innocent victims, zombie stories are more about the humans and how they deal with an overwhelming force that is mindless and bloodthirsty.

Some of the more popular pieces of zombie literature today include:

1. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

This comic series is so popular that it has been made into a great television show on AMC. It starts off with a small-town cop who wakes up from a coma to find that the world he once knew has been overrun by zombies. All his loved ones are missing and everything he once had has been destroyed. Now he has to survive the new world of zombies while trying to pull his life together.

2. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

This is the recorded testimony of survivors of the zombie wars as the human population has become dangerously close to extinction. It has only recently been made into a movie starring Brad Pitt.

3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

This is a new take on Austen's classic novel that blends manners with cannibalism and romance with blood soaked battle fields.

4. The Fores of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

This piece of young adult zombie literature is set in a fenced in society surrounded by a seemingly endless forest full of the Unconsecrated (zombies). If you prefer a book without too much gore, this may be the best choice of zombie fiction for you. The story focuses on Mary as the world she once thought she knew slowly reveals its darker side as she fights to survive.

So why are zombies so popular even in the fiction of today? Perhaps it is because of the primitive fear a cannibalistic walking corpse brings out. On the other hand, there are those who believe an apocalypse is imminent and/or that the world will not be able to sustain an ever growing population forever. Whether it is due to a deep felt anxiety of the future state of humanity or the natural fear of being eaten alive, one thing is for sure: zombies are always going to be a popular figure in fiction as well as in the movies, no matter how boring their slack jaws and empty eyes may seem.

© 2012 Lisa


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    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I love how the US Center for Disease Control has a Zombie Preparedness is so funny...but people like Zombies so you do what works to get people to pay attention!

    • SEO IT! profile image

      Karla Whitmore 5 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" - Who would have thought a zombie element could be added to that particular classic? I think I will have to read it. ;) I love zombies. That is, I love the zombie genres.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      it seems that zombies are very popular right now... THEY'RE ZOMBIES! :))

    • profile image

      Jade0215 5 years ago

      Russians have already got a "zombie gun" that they've been testing out on people, haven't had any problems with people eating each other on it yet though but if that mind control stuff is working like they say, I'd think it could definitely happen.

    • mejohnson profile image

      mejohnson 5 years ago

      Zombies seem to be the go to for any current or future apocalypse probably because it doesn't seem so far fetched and it's terrifying. Personally I like these stories because I like to see how the living survives in an undead world.