October 10, 2009

The Zombie Handbook (Review)


The Zombie Handbook:
How to Identify the living Dead and Survive the Coming Zombie Apocalypse

By Rob Sacchetto

Ulysses Press: 2009


4.5 / 5 zedheads

Rob Sacchetto is without a doubt one of the best modern day zombie illustrators. He's now brought his considerable talents and unexpectedly sharp sense of humour to the publishing world with his latest project: The Zombie Handbook.  

The Zombie Handbook is a crisp, twisted, and often laugh-out-loud funny guide to not only how to survive the zombie apocalypse but also how to understand zombie behaviour. While covering standard topics such as defense and weapons, it veers off into the realm of the satirical with portions of chapters devoted to comparisons of zombies to supermodels and an explanation of zombie mating habits.

Gloriously illustrated with full-colour depictions of gory zombie violence and all manner of rotting, slackjawed corpses, Rob's style is very reminiscent of the classic EC horror comics but infused with a bawdy sense of humour that tempers his extremely graphic depiction of mutilated bodies and faces. As such, The Zombie Handbook is a unique gem in the recent offering of zombie guide books. Whereas other zombie guides, such as Max Brooks's Zombie Survival Guide and Jonathan Maeberry's Zombie CSU, more or less treat their subject matter with a tongue-in-cheek straightness, The Zombie Handbook forgoes much of this faux-seriousness. Instead, it puts its tongue right through the gash in its cheek and lets it waggle out the side of its face for all to see.

Sacchetto is famous for his incredibly popular “Know Your Zombies” poster as well as his Zombie Portraits business. People send Sacchetto photos of themselves, their loved ones, and their pets for him to paint as mutilated zombies. Rob Sacchetto is clearly an accomplished artist, able to produce very realistic and detailed portraits as well as exaggerated and cartoonish figures. He seems to revel in the texture of the zombies he draws – they are usually wrinkled or slimy, with chunks of their faces and mouths savagely torn away, loose flaps of flesh dangling off their faces and bodies.

What I didn't expect from The Zombie Handbook was its incredibly sharp sense of humour. Sometimes this humour is a product of the subject matter (i.e. the comparison of supermodels to zombies), but most of the time the humour comes from the writing itself. Unlike other humour books in which the reader can see the punchline coming a mile away, Sacchetto slips humorous turns of phrase, comparisons, and unexpected reversal into the text when one least expects it. Here's an example of Sacchetto's deft humorous touch from a section on the future of zombies:
Further pacification of zombies could eliminate the need for humans to engage in undesirable or dangerous occupations such as crop picking or mining, freeing humans to enjoy leisure pursuits like bungee jumping, jet skiing, and skydiving.
I can't do enough to recommend Sacchetto's The Zombie Handbook for its brilliant art and comical take on the zombie guide genre that -- let's face it -- takes itself too seriously most of the time. Sacchetto revels in the ribald nature of the zombie. The Zombie Handbook should be an essential part of your zombie book collection.

The Zombie Handbook is the perfect gift for horror fans this Halloween. Buy it online or at your local book store.

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* This review first appeared in Horror in the Hammer's Scream Scene #1 (Oct 2009)