Book Review: Zombie Nation: From Folklore to Modern Frenzy

Zombie Nation: From Folklore to Modern Frenzy
By E.R. Vernor
Published By: Schiffer Publishing LTD, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7643-4450-3
Review copy sent by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

The popularity of zombies has yet to wane, as seen by the recent debut of the movie “World War Z”, based upon the book by Max Brooks. Brooks also wrote “The Zombie Survival Guide”, a tongue-in-cheek survival manual for those who believe the Zombie Apocalypse will soon be upon us. But “Zombie Nation” is a serious, non-fiction book about zombies in legend, literature, movies and TV. I found it to be as entertaining as Brooks’ book, though not as funny.

Eric R. Vernor has written other books on macabre subjects, such as “I, Lucifer: Exploring the Archetype and Origins of the Devil” also by Schiffer Publishing, and “Goth Girls, Vampire Vixens and Satan’s Sirens” by Dark Moon Press. He was a guest speaker at Dragon Con 2011 on a panel about vampires, and has been published in Penthouse, Philadelphia Weekly and Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine. But his writing style reminds me of my homeboy Patrick Thomas, oddball writer of urban fantasy and creator of the “Murphy’s Lore” series. Especially when he punctuates, leaving out vital pronouns and misspelling words.

He also got the plot of “White Zombie” wrong; this 1932 movie starring Bela Lugosi is about a Haitian landowner who is really an evil zombie-making sorcerer, who tries to steal a new bride from her husband by turning her into a zombie. Vernor claims he turns the husband into a zombie, which is completely wrong. It makes me wonder about the accuracy of the other zombie movies that he provides spoilers for; all of director George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” Series, the “Resident Evil” movies, “28 Days Later”, etc. The only ones I’m sure about are the ones that I’ve seen myself, like “Wes Craven’s The Serpent and The Rainbow” and “Shaun of the Dead”. On the whole, Vernor has positive things to say about these popular zombie flicks. I just wish he wouldn’t write so awkwardly while he’s saying it.

On the positive side, he does give us useful information about the difference between traditional zombies made by voodoo and zombies created by science; radiation, virus, an experiment gone wrong, etc. He also mentions the “zombie attacks” caused by “Bath Salts”, the synthetic designer drug Methylenedioxpyrovalerone or MDPV, which caused 31-year-old Rudy Eugene of North Miami Beach to attack a sleeping homeless man and eat half his face before the police were able to shoot him to death. He also mentions the Zombie Walks that have become an annual Halloween event in several cities, as well as the origin of zombie lore in the Carribean and the way it spread to Europe and the Western World. I could have done without the mention of Zombie Jesus, which as a practicing Catholic I find offensive. But in the spirit of tolerance, and the recognition that not everyone shares my religious beliefs, I guess I’ll have to get used to it. (But I don’t have to like it!)

So, if you’re looking for a serious source of Zombie lore to back up your belief in the coming Zombie Apocalypse, or just to prove that there are real zombies out there, get a copy of “Zombie Nation” to prove your case. Just remember to research the various zombie movies yourself, so you won’t be influenced by the errors in Vernor’s spoilers, which you should take with a very large grain of salt. By the way, did you know that salt is one of the traditional ways of fighting a zombie? According to Haitian folklore, if you’re a bokor, or zombie maker, you should never feed a zombie salt because it’s an element of the earth and helps to remind zombies that they are dead and should be at rest. That’s one tidbit you won’t find in Vernor’s book; I just threw it in for you as a freebie. You still have to buy the book at your local bookstore or favorite online bookstore