I cut my teeth in the horror genre with The Vampire Chronicles and Stephen King. None of those stories kept me up at night or even made me nervous to go into dark rooms alone. That’s not to say sections didn’t freak me out. Heck, several scenes in Misery made me squirm in my seat while wanting to stop reading and yet turning the page to figure out what happened next. But those scenes didn’t stay with me.
Then I read World War Z. Only my second experience with a zombie novel (the first being Cell by Stephen King), it reminded me a whole lot of a history book full of first-hand accounts of the Vietnam War. Each section detailed what became known as World War Z: how the zombies overwhelmed soldiers, how people learned how to fight them, and how the world changed in the years afterward. The book seemed just as real as the history one.
I’ve only read a couple zombie books since then, however I click on just about every zombie article I find. Since half of the internet devotes itself to discussing zombies and preparing to face them, that’s been a lot of reading. I researched vampires just as much when I read The Vampire Chronicles.
There was a difference between the monsters, though. At least in my mind and far beyond the simple differences between a blood-sucking creature of the night and a undead creatures that shuffles around in search of human flesh. Sure there are different versions of each creature, but they share the same traits
Vampires can defend themselves. They possess heightened senses, superior speed, massive strength, and lightning fast reaction time. Then there’s the fact that those who’ve survived a century or two gained a measure of experience fighting off enemies. Plus consuming blood helps them to heal themselves from a fight. Killing one requires a whole lot of skill, or simply dumb luck.
Zombies own bodies work against them. They’re mindless walking corpses with one goal in mind: consuming flesh. If their prey decides to fight back, zombies struggle to fight back as death removes their coordination. Injuries or damage done to the zombie during a fight doesn’t heal. That’s why they keep coming even if they’ve had a limb chopped off.
That’s not even counting the damage done by insects feasting on the corpse, ambling over dangerous terrain, or coming into contact with predators in the animal kingdom. In a long term situation where zombies walked the earth, humans can wait for injuries to eventually take them out. That’s if people decide knocking their heads off gets boring. This article by Cracked.com does a great job of exploring the subject in greater detail.
Logic refuses to let me be afraid of zombies. They’re too easy to kill compared with vampires, and that’s probably why I chose vampires over zombies for my post-apocalyptic work-in-progress.
I like reading zombie novels, and I’ve found one or two that buck the traditional zombie mythology to create their own. Authors doing that always give them a good mark in my book.
Truth be told though, there’s a reason I read about zombies instead of watching them in movies or on television. Books rely on my imagination to craft an image. Movies and TV put the picture right in front of my face, leaving my mind free to imagine myself as a character facing down a zombie. The idea of facing down a mindless monster who’ll stop at nothing to hurt me, that scares the pants off of me more than any thought of Dracula hiding out in my closet.