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Zombies of the World Review

Posted By Kenneth Hite On October 25, 2011 @ 10:25 am In Nonfiction,Reviews | No Comments


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    Roleplaying game scenarist, short film maker, podcaster, and graphic designer Ross Payton adds a new laurel to his crown with Zombies of the World: A Field Guide to the Undead. At only 112 trade-paperback pages, Payton does not aim for completness, but for richness. And between his light authorial tone, his slamming graphic design chops, and his slavering hunger for the topic, he shoots his target square in the head.

    Zombies of the World presents itself as a kind of all-in-one reference book, from a world in which the walking dead are, if not common, relatively well documented. If Dorling Kindersley published a zombie book, it might look something like this. Chapters cover the etiology and science of zombies, a brief history of notable outbreaks, and a simple guide to “Surviving Zombie Encounters,” all done nicely straight-faced.

    The meat of the book is the largest chapter: a field guide to twenty zombie species from the Common Gray Shambler (Mortifera immortalis romeroi) to the common Asian fiend the Preta (M. immortalis gaki). It also covers two subspecies of mummy (Egyptian and Aztec) and a revenant (M. reverto vorheesi) among its examples of the walking dead. I personally think the New England Ghoul (M. immortalis pickmani) is misclassified (M. necronomicus, surely?), but that’s just nitpickery. The entries provide plenty of fodder for exactly that kind of nitpicky fun, including a description of the thing, its “habits and habitat,” and its reproduction and range (complete with handsome world map). Each entry additionally features a grand full-page illustration by Tom Rhodes and an icon indicating the thing’s “conservation status.”

    Taken as a whole, the book is impressively professional. Payton published it himself through his Slang Design imprint, but it looks vastly better than the host of Lulu-Lightning books currently shambling through the post-apocalyptic world of print publishing. Paper stock, binding, and typography are of the highest quality, all important considerations in a book you buy sheerly to enjoy the existence of. Since it presents as an artifact of Payton’s specific zombie world, it doesn’t really work as a real-world compendium of zombie film and folk lore (although there’s a good amount of that in here, of course); likewise, adapting it for games will be slightly more difficult if you’ve already made basic decisions about your setting. But any book that carefully differentiates between the Italian Zombie (M. immortalis fulci) and the North American Cabin Lurker (M. necronomicus kandarian) is a book with brains enough to feast upon all night.

    Review by Kenneth Hite

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