BOOK REVIEW: BOOK OF THE DEAD / AUTHOR: JAMIE RUSSELL / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
If knowledge is indeed power, then you’d better equip yourself with Jamie Russell’s Book of the Dead for the inevitable outbreak. The culmination of years’ worth of work, Russell’s efforts have paid dividends. Who could have predicted the living dead coming out top dog over the fanged, the furry, and the weird?
The revised introduction demonstrates the huge cultural shift in attitudes towards zombies between the publication of the first edition in 2005 and the printing of the second; moving from niche taste to big bucks - how many ‘this is my zombie killing (insert clothing here)’ garments have you seen?
Russell makes his debt to critic and author Kim Newman clear, along with all the filmmakers mentioned and the delightfully titled zombie scholars who have helped to make the book a runaway success. The prologue lovingly defends the zombie, kicking off a guide to the walking dead that reveals just how potent a metaphor for political and social upheaval and injustice they are.
Laid out in twin columns on each page, with an occasional black and white photograph, the text is more of an extended essay than encyclopaedia. Russell’s writing style is witty and welcoming, sometimes dense but never elitist. This won’t be one for casual fans, but for those with an academic leaning and more than a flirtation with zombie cinema, this is going to go down a treat.
Put together with aplomb, the sheer dedication is impressive, gathering together plenty of lesser known facts and films. The book goes above and beyond, with fascinating chapters including Zombie Darwinism and Gentlemen Prefer (Dead) Blondes. It’s great to dip in and out of, but its power lies in its chronology, watching the mythos build and snowball into the pop culture phenomena it remains today.
Following the bulk of the book is a fanboy fulfilling interview with zombie granddaddy, George A. Romero. Covering the director’s entire career, there’s a few nuggets you might not have been aware of, with this followed up by the afterword where Russell dwells on the moment he first fell in love with the living dead. One of the best revisions, however, is the expanded and comprehensive 100-plus page zombie filmography, which will swiftly become the only movie tick list you’ll be bothering with.
If your coffee table isn’t made of bones and bound in flesh, this book is the next best thing. A gruesome addition to any horror hound’s household, Book of the Dead mark II has arrived in time for Halloween.
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