“Robbed of our confidence as the planet’s dominant life-form:” Max Brooks’s Zombie Wars

Bill Phillips

Abstract


According to The Zombie Survival Guide, “extensive research has yet to find an isolated example of Solanum [the virus which causes its victims to become zombies] in nature. Water, air, and soil in all ecosystems, from all parts of the world, have turned up negative, as have their accompanying flora and fauna” (ZSG 2-3). There is no evidence, then, that Nature was directly responsible for “the creatures that almost caused our extinction” (World War Z 1). Nevertheless, apart from the facile assertion that everything that happens in the material world may be subsumed beneath the umbrella term ‘nature’, even a cursory meditation on the significance of the Zombie War cannot fail to point an accusatory finger at the Earth, at Gaia, at Pacha Mama, however you wish to name her. The massive decline in human population, as well as the inevitable concomitant drop in consumption as the fabric of society collapsed, can only have brought relief to an endangered global ecosystem. But perhaps of greatest interest is the metaphorical significance of the zombies. They have an uncanny “ability to hunt, fight, and feed in total darkness” (ZSG 7). Their intelligence “ranks somewhere beneath that of an insect” (ZSG 14), they have “no language skills” (ZSG 16), while it is “instinct brought on by Solanum [which] drives the undead to kill and devour” (ZSG 18). These are the attributes — both strengths and weaknesses — that humanity habitually bestows on the natural world. This article will explore Max Brooks’s zombie fictions as ecocritical allegories of retaliatory Nature.


Keywords


Zombies; ecocriticism; allegory

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1344/co201618112-123

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