Dan Oliver‘s Zombies A-Z (available next month in the US from John Blake Publishing) seemed like a no-fail proposition. Coming from a British author, it seemed that the book would offer a different perspective on the zombie phenomenon. The idea of easier access to European zombie flicks and BBC series would – at least on the surface – allow for a book that is a little more rounded than those with an American focus.
In that respect, Zombies A-Z succeeds. Bringing to light such UK series as Dead Set, about an outbreak of zombism on the set of Big Brother, makes the book interesting. It’s simple – while reading about stuff about which you already know is entertaining, the main purpose of picking up a book like this is to find new venues for entertainment. And, as I said, the book succeeds in that respect.
In all other aspects, however, Oliver’s book is a shambles. Obviously, no book can be completely comprehensive. There’s always going to be some little-known indie flick that escapes the author’s research, making it difficult to compile a list of everything extant. That being said, how can one include Last Man On Earth or I Am Legend – vampire movies – and leave out the likes of Night of the Creeps? It’s difficult to judge just what exactly is Oliver’s criteria for inclusion in Zombies A-Z when that sort of cross-genre confusion occurs.
There’s also little-to-no consistency in the book. Some films and TV series have lengthy summaries which recount every major plot point, whereas others read as little more than the promo blurbs one would find on the back of the movie case. The inclusion of “Did You Know?” factoids help lend detail to what are otherwise fairly lengthy and banal page-packing Cliff’s Notes versions of the films, but they’re not there for all films, nor even the majority thereof.
It really just seems that Zombies A-Z was put together as a fan page online, then transfered to a page layout and printed. Why else include Rotten Tomatoes rating for various films – and, again, not even all of them – or “Movie Mistakes” that just seem like padding? This could have been a wonderful reference book for horror fans, but it just ends up being frustratingly inconsistent to the point of being almost unnecessary.