I’m trying a new approach with my blog. During the Stoker Weekend two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with many of my fellow authors, including Jonathon Maberry, Scott G. Browne, Scott Kenemore, and John Cozzoli. One of the many topics discussed was blogging, and how to make our blogs more appealing to readers. Talking with them, I realized that what my blog is lacking is less material about me and more postings that will be of interest to the wider genre community. So I decided to make some changes in the coming months, make my blog less “me” centric, and post the occasional review of zombie and vampire books and movies.
So with that, here’s my review of Steven C. Schlozman’s The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse.
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Available from Amazon.com
Blurb: As the walking dead rises up throughout the world, a few brave doctors attempt to find a cure by applying forensic techniques to captured zombies. Based on the research of renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Blum, performed at a remote island where a crack medical team has been sent to explore a radical theory that may lead to a cure for the epidemic, THE ZOMBIE AUTOPSIES documents for the first time the unique biology of zombie organisms. Twenty-five detailed drawings of the internal organs of actual zombies provide an accurate anatomy of these horrifying creatures, including zombie brains, hearts, lungs, skin, and the digestive system, while Dr. Blum’s notes reveal shocking insights into how they function, even as Blum and his staff themselves begin to succumb to the plague. No one knows the ultimate fate of Dr. Blum or his researchers, but now that his notebook, THE ZOMBIE AUTOPSIES, has been made available to the UN, the World Health Organization, and the general public, his scientific discoveries may provide the last hope for humans on earth!
Word of mouth from other blogs and forums has been giving The Zombie Autopsies good reviews, so the last time I was at the bookstore I picked up a copy. I’m glad I did. As a psychiatrist on the faculty of Mass General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Schlozman has used his medical background to provide a unique entry to the zombie genre.
The Zombie Autopsies focuses on the private, hand-written diary of Dr. Stanley Blum, the last scientist sent to the United Nations Sanctuary on the island of Bassas da India in the Indian Ocean where researchers from the UN and the World Health Organization are conducting autopsies on fully-animated zombies to find a cure for the living dead plague that has ravished a third of mankind. Everyone else who has ever traveled to the sanctuary has become infected and eventually turned into a zombie, so for Dr. Blum volunteering for this mission is a death sentence. In conjunction with Dr. Banca Gutierrez and Dr. James Pittman, the current researchers who are rapidly progressing from Stage II to Stage IV of the virus, the trio perform graphically detailed autopsies of the brain and internal organs of fully animated zombies. Their research soon unearths a frightening fact – the virus that has wiped out much if the world was most likely engineered by man.
An interesting twist to the novel is the bureaucratese that dominates the text. Because The Zombie Autopsies is written like a scientific paper, it has a detached feel about it. The zombie plague is referred to as Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome (ANSD), the “internationally accepted diagnostic term.” Those infected with ANSD are referred to as “humanoids” until they reach the final virulent Stage IV and become “No Longer Human” (NLH) and can be “deanimated.” Schlozman also includes references to the Treaty of Atlanta, the meeting of scientists, ethicists, and religious leaders to reach a consensus on how to characterize and deal with the infected (ethicists have been arguing that killing in mass self-defense can only be justified as an act of war, which does not apply in this scenario since the zombies did not formally declare war). Anybody who has watched the complete ineffectiveness of governments in the face of Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the tsunamis that recently devastated Japan will find these sections disturbingly authentic.
As a tongue-in-cheek nod to genre fans, Scholzman uses the autopsies to explain the physiology of the traditional shambling zombies of the Romero mythos (no fast zombies here), providing a medical basis for why the living dead possess voracious appetites, why they walk with their arms held out in front of them, and a host of other characteristics. And it would be remiss not to mention the gruesome illustrations by Andrea Sparacio, which in and of themselves are worth the purchase price of the book.
The Zombie Autopsies is a unique novel that should be included in any zombie aficionados’ book shelf.