Monday, February 6, 2012

Guilty Pleasure: A Zombie's History of the United States

I was in the mood for a zombie book recently, and browsed my local library's catalog for such things. A Zombie's History of the United States by Dr. Worm Miller (I hope that's a pseudonym) came up, and I decided to give it a try.  Here's my review.
Checkouts: Not available at the school library.
Typical reader: Zombie fans with some knowledge of, and interest in, history
Do the Dewey: Shelved at 973 MI (American history) at my local library
Source: My local library

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars

This parody offers an alternative history of several events throughout American history with the presence of zombies.  Sounds interesting, right?  Well ... once you get past the first couple vignettes, it is.  The preface had me skeptical, though I did enjoy pondering how zombies may have come to North America via the land bridge in the Bering Straits with the early peoples who would become Native Americans.  The colonial pieces were dull.  I might actually recommend skipping them.

My interest was firmly piqued with the story of Lewis and Clark, which offered a story where Lewis was extremely interested in studying the undead and experimenting with a cure.  Eventually he was bitten and experimented on himself - and became an undead hybrid, with his human wits about him but the hunger for flesh and the lack of a pulse of a zombie.  Creative?  Oh, yes.

The value of this book lies within that creativity.  Miller takes various famous events and sticks zombies into the fray, sometimes even altering famous quotes slightly to include references to the undead.  There are zombies at the Alamo, zombies interfering with the Transcontinental Railroad, zombies being wrestled by Teddy Roosevelt, and zombies fighting Nazis.  I'd endorse the passages regarding the 1800s the most.

Parodies often seem to be for those who don't worry about political correctness.  This book is no different - but may cross the line in a few places.  It's a little uncomfortable to read a book that glosses over history so that the real issues are hidden.  Zombies are the target of Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan.  They are the beings that would be rounded up to exist in the Oklahoma Territory.  Agent Orange is replaced by zombification spray in the Vietnam conflict.

While I often wondered if this book would be good for high school students, to raise their interest in real American history, there's too much hesitation because of the lackluster passages in some portions of the book, and the way it shrugs off important issues.  There are better-written historical rewrites that don't play as fast and loose with accuracy as this book does.  Interestingly, what comes to mind are the source-books for the old World of Darkness role-playing games, such as Werewolf: the Apocalypse and Vampire: the Masquerade.
Want a good reinterpretation of history? Try an RPG book.


  1. It's a little sad that a book which can include "zombies being wrestled by Teddy Roosevelt" can be so dull in parts. But at least it seems to have some redeeming qualities.

    1. I know, right? Perhaps the author was not particularly familiar with the parts of history that came across less than stellar in his writing.